A drunk driver who was on a ‘motorised pub crawl’ when he ploughed his car at high speed through the living room wall of a family home has been jailed for five years.
James Sparham, 29, was almost three times the drink drive limit when he crashed through the wall of the home owned by David Garnett, 54 and his wife Claire, 50, in the early hours September 3 2017.
The horrific crash, which caused horrendous damage totalling £175,000, left David with ‘life changing injuries’ after he was trapped underneath the bonnet of the car, York Crown Court heard.
Two passengers who were also in the vehicle, Sophie Armitage and Nathan Lofthouse, were hospitalised after the crash in York, North Yorks.
Prosecuting, Rachael Landin told the court David and Claire had been sat in their living room on separate sofas moments before the 3am crash.
Claire had gone into the kitchen and, just as she left that room, there was a “loud bang” as the car careered through the wall and struck David.
Claire struggled to try to pull her husband from the rubble and their 12-year-old son came downstairs and witnessed the horrific sight of his father trapped, the court heard.
Mrs Landin said: “Mrs Garnett was coming back to the living room. She said it was like a ‘bomb going off’.
“Her husband was beneath the bonnet of the car. Their 12-year-old came downstairs.
“Mrs Garnett saw a male leaving the vehicle. The person who left did not help her husband.”
Mr Garnett suffered ‘life changing injuries’ and has had to leave his work since the horror crash.
He spent over a month in Leeds General Hospital for treatment for burns to his calves and an eye injury which now requires 13 eye drops a day, the court heard.
He also had to have intensive physiotherapy and has attended over 60 hospital appointments.
Mrs Landin told the court Mr Garnett had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following the crash and had ‘nightmares’ of what happened that night.
In a moving victim impact statement read on his behalf to the court, Mr Garnett said he thought the car was going to ‘explode any second’.
He said: “That moment made my life change forever. I had to learn to walk again.
“I am a shell of the man from before the crash and I am in mental freefall. I don’t know how I will ever recover from this incident.”
Mrs Landin told the court Nathan Lofthouse had ‘screamed’ at Sparham to slow down as he looked over his shoulder and ‘saw 80mph on the speedometer’ as they traveled through a 30mph area moments before the crash
Neither of the passengers knew how drunk Sparham was, the court heard.
Sparham sat motionless in the glass-fronted dock with his head bowed throughout the hearing in a grey suit.
Mrs Garnett watched proceedings from the public gallery with other members of her family.
Defending, Stephen Littlewood said Sparham was remorseful for his actions and had written a letter to the victims of the crash.
He asked for credit for Sparham’s pleas at the earliest opportunity.
Sentencing Sparham, Judge Recorder of York Paul Batty QC said: “This is the worst case of causing damage by dangerous driving possible to imagine.
“You caused three people life changing injuries as a result of your driving.
“A householder in his own home was trapped under your car when it crashed through the wall of his home.
“You caused life changing injuries to your two passengers. You were drunk at the relevant time.
“On this particular night you had been going on a motorised pub crawl.”
The judge explained how many witnesses had seen Sparham driving aggressively in the hours before the incident.
He added: “The two passengers in your car were not aware of how drunk you were.
“One of your passengers told you to slow down and could see on the speedometer you were travelling at 80mph in a 30mph area.
“You had been drink driving, you had started drinking earlier in the day.
“[The family] had just come back from a holiday when the car crashed through their living room wall.
“It must have been an utterly horrific incident for them. A twelve year old came downstairs to see his father trapped under a vehicle.
“[His mother] struggled to get her husband out. The consequences were terrible.
“The damage is estimated at £175k. The house may be rebuilt but their memories will not.”
Judge Batty QC sentenced Sparham to five years in custody.
Sparham was also banned from driving for a total of seven and a half years and must carry out an extended driving test.
After the hearing, Detective Sergeant Jeremy Bartley of the Major Collision Investigation Team, who led the investigation, said: “The choices Sparham made that night have had a catastrophic impact on innocent people.
“The damage he did was not just to a family’s home, but also to their health and their wellbeing – damage which continues to this day. Lives have been changed forever.
“The sad thing is, our investigation has shown that this incident was absolutely avoidable. It didn’t have to happen.
“It was an act of stupidity that had dire consequences.”
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