A young woman left three people with devastating injuries when she drove onto the wrong side of the road and smashed head-on into a Land Rover travelling in the opposite direction.
Both occupants of the Land Rover were severely injured in the collision in south Warwickshire, and Laura Woodfield’s own passenger was also badly hurt.
And a judge said he was ‘troubled’ by the fact that she seemed to feel more remorse for her boyfriend’s injuries than those suffered by the couple in the Land Rover.
She had initially denied causing serious injuries by dangerous driving, and only pleaded guilty to the charge on the day of her trial at Warwick Crown Court.
But Woodfield, 25, of Bitham Road, Lighthorne Heath, narrowly escaped an immediate custodial sentence.
She was sentenced to 13 months in prison suspended for two years, and was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work and to take part in a rehabilitation activity.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that at around 8.30 in the evening on April 14 last year Esme Stanley was driving her Land Rover along the Wormleighton road from Fenny Compton towards Wormleighton, with her partner William Warner as a passenger.
Travelling in the opposite direction along the single carriageway road, which has a 60mph speed limit, were Woodfield and her boyfriend Simon Bowen in her red VW Golf.
“As the Land Rover went round a left-hand bend it collided with the Golf which was on the wrong side of the road.”
People in the car behind the Land Rover stopped and rushed to help, and Woodfield got out of the car shouting for help for Mr Bowen who was severely injured and unconscious.
Ms Stanley managed to get of the Land Rover and sat down, while Mr Warner remained in the vehicle, bleeding and in severe pain and crying out for his father.
When the police spoke to Woodfield, she said she had been driving back from the pub, where she had only been drinking orange juice, when she saw the Land Rover heading towards her on her side of the road.
But Mr Simpson pointed out: “The evidence is overwhelming that the Land Rover was on the correct side of the road, and that it was the Golf on the wrong side of the road.”
Despite that, Woodfield had continued to deny her driving had been dangerous – until the day of her trial, when she pleaded guilty on the basis that she thought the Land Rover was coming towards her on the wrong side of the road, but was mistaken.
The court heard that Ms Stanley suffered a bleed to her brain as a result of the crash, and Mr Warner had multiple facial fractures including displaced fractures to his cheekbones, his eye socket, his upper jaw and his nose.
He has been left with ‘a significant facial deformity’ and numbness to his face, and is awaiting further surgery.
And in Woodfield’s car Mr Bowen had a fractured right femur, two fractures to his left leg and a broken forearm.
Nick Devine, defending, said Woodfield was also injured, with a broken foot and internal bruising, and Mr Bowen, who has recovered but still suffers discomfort when it is cold, remains her partner.
“After the collision she did everything possible to help,” said Mr Devine, and since then she has undertaken a driving course and has had 23 sessions of counselling to come to terms with what she did.
Sentencing Woodfield, who was also banned from driving for two-and-a-half years, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told her: “Esme Stanley and William Warner were going about their lawful business that night.
“Of course, they were not wearing a seat belt, but you focussed far too much on that.
"If they had been walking on the road, they would have been mown down by you.
“Your car simply drove into the front of their Land Rover.
"They have suffered life-changing injuries.
"Any sentence will fade into insignificance compared to what they will suffer.
“It is a perfectly safe road, but you made an error.
"I accept everything that was said about the short-lived nature of it, but it was a gross error and put your car on the wrong side of the road at 50mph into the path of the Land Rover.
“It is merciful no-one lost their life.
"But sometime, if you do not lose your life, you are subject to a life of pain.”
Referring to the pre-sentence report on Woodfield, Judge Lockhart said: “I am troubled by the fact that you still seem to feel more remorse for your partner than for those in the other car.
“You need in your mind to understand that it is nothing of the fault of those two people in the Land Rover that they have ended up with those injuries, it is yours.”