'Reckless' motorist drives car into ex-girlfriend in South Shields

'Reckless' driver Craig Merrigan.
'Reckless' driver Craig Merrigan.

A driver who ploughed his Range Rover into his ex when he mounted a pavement to "frighten" her has been put behind bars.

Craig Merrigan was initially accused of trying to kill the woman during the incident in South Shields in May which left her in hospital with minor injuries, including soft tissue damage to her back.

At Newcastle Crown Court prosecutors accepted the 31-year-old was not deliberately attempting to harm his victim and accepted guilty pleas to assault and two offences of dangerous driving.

The attempted murder charge was dropped.

The court heard Merrigan, a mechanic who ran a removals firm, had driven the vehicle towards the woman for a first time earlier the same day after sending "abusive and threatening" messages to her and her friend.

Merrigan had followed a bus she was on, which was travelling from the town centre and then mounted a pavement "inches in front of her" when she temporarily got off near South Tyneside Hospital in an initial bid to scare her.

The court heard when the woman got back on the bus, Merrigan continued to follow and displayed such "erratic driving" that the driver had to call the police.

A judge said Merrigan's driving near the bus caused a "danger" to other road users.

The court it was later that day, Merrigan, who appeared "vacant" but was not on any drink or drugs, mounted the pavement again.

Judge Tim Gittins told him: "I accept your basis of plea that, again, your intention was simply to frighten her.

"But your behaviour was so reckless, on this occasion you were unable to stop your vehicle in time and you collided with her.

"Fortunately, although she was knocked to the floor, she was not badly injured.

"She was absolutely terrified and thoroughly distressed and ended up having to be taken to hospital to be treated for fortunately limited soft tissue injuries to her back.

"It would, undoubtedly, have alarmed other road users."

Merrigan, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 14 months behind bars with a two year road ban.

The judge told him: "It involved you using a Range Rover, a large, heavy, powerful vehicle in a way that was extremely risky, as compounded by the fact you knocked her over.

"No doubt because you were in such a temper you lost your control, you couldn't stop in time and struck her in the way you did."

The said he accepted Merrigan's behaviour had been "reckless" and not a deliberate attempt to harm the woman.

The court heard Merrigan, who was on a suspended sentence, had started drinking and taking cocaine during the build up to the offence, to deal with work stress and excessive business hours, but had forced himself to withdraw just beforehand.

Merrigan was able to produce references and certificates as a result of the positive steps he has taken since the offending.