Suspended sentence for Henham driver who fled crash scene

PUBLISHED: 17:11 19 March 2015 | UPDATED: 17:11 19 March 2015

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A 31-year-old hit and run crash driver from Henham who left a mother-of-three “lucky to be alive” was today given a suspended jail sentence.

Adam Woolf, of Church Street, finally gave himself up to police the next day and admitted he had had “one alcoholic drink” before the crash on the B1051 at Elsenham on December 2 last year.

The woman, Helen Mehmet, from Bishop’s Stortford, had to scramble out of the passenger side of her Mini following the head-on collision. She collapsed to the ground with internal bleeding and nerve damage.

Chelmsford Magistrates were told that she first thought Woolf, who was slumped in his white Peugeot Partner van, was dead.

However, she said later she was “shocked” to hear he had left the scene, adding: “We’ll now never know how much he had to drink,” Chelmsford Magistrates Court heard.

Gas engineer, Woolf, who admitted careless driving and failing to stop, was given a four months jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to attend a thinking skills course, pay an £80 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

No driving ban was imposed but he received 10 penalty points on his driving licence.

As he was sentenced Chair of the bench David Thwaites said it was such a serious an offence that only a custodial sentence was appropriate, but ruled that it could be suspended.

He added: “You were the cause of a very serious road traffic collision with potentially life-threatening injuries.

“We note your remorse and the fact you reported it, although some-what belatedly.”

Kathy Wilson, prosecuting, said the crash occurred at 9.10pm on December 2 after Mrs Mehmet had left a yoga class and was travelling at 20-25mph after leaving a junction.

Mrs Wilson added: “She was aware of a vehicle coming down the road but it suddenly went onto her side of the road and she braked.

“It swerved and tried to avoid her but she heard a bang and the collision forced her backwards into a ditch.

“She had to climb out of the passenger side and she saw the other driver slumped over his wheel. She thought he was dead.

“Other people who arrived at the scene told her not to pay ‘any heed’ to him.”

Mrs Mehmet was provided with a seat, Mrs Wilson said, and was then told the driver of the other vehicle had made off from the scene.

She added: “When interviewed after going to Hoddesdon Police Station the next day, he told police he had no recollection but had left with his girlfriend who was following him.”

Mrs Wilson told the court that Woolf said later that he had had one alcoholic drink and panicked.

He said he had seen his girlfriend’s car, hobbled to it and gone in it to a friend’s house. The court was later told that his girlfriend had remained at the crash scene.

In a victim personal statement, Mrs Mehmet said she suffered “panic and fear” as the headlights went towards her as she had “no control of the utter chaos” which followed.

She said that after the crash she was “suffering excruciating pain” and collapsed on the road fearing she would never see her husband and children again. She was “shaking with shock.”

Initially when told Woolf had “gone” she said: “Oh, my God, he’s dead”. But she said she was horrified when she was corrected and told he had left the scene.

Mrs Mehmet said in her statement that Woolf’s actions were “difficult to understand”.

As well as internal bleeding and nerve damage, Mrs Mehmet suffered various bruising and was left “immobile and unable to walk”, after being discharged from Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow the next day.

The court was told that she is still unable to carry out her work at an estate agents and that her husband has had to take leave to run the house.

She has seen four emergency doctors since the incident and been admitted to hospital twice more and “still feels traumatised when she closes her eyes seeing the catastrophic collision”.

She likened her feelings to being on an “emotional roller coaster”.

Mrs Wilson said Mrs Mehemt considered she was “lucky to be alive” but had suffered a “significant physical and emotional affect”.

She said the court was not being asked to award compensation as civil proceedings were likely to follow.

Woolf, who had a previous conviction for assault causing actual bodily harm and having a prohibited weapon, was on licence at the time of the offences from a five-year sentence.

The court was told in a probation report that prior to the accident Woolf had been to collect a picture with his girlfriend but they had gone in different vehicles.

The report said that after the crash he had seen the victim on her feet “with possibly a dozen people around her” and saw the opportunity to leave the scene as he was on licence.

He was said to have been “mortified” at causing such pain.

Andrew Clowser, mitigating for Woolf, said: “He is horrified that his actions caused injury and trauma to Mrs Mehmet and her family. The impact on him is trivial and he is genuinely remorseful.

“No doubt Mrs Mehmet will make a full claim for injury, on-going care and loss of earnings and his insurance premium will sky-rocket two or three times. He panicked but saw others attending Mrs Mehmet.”

Highlighting that Woolf had had a clean driving licence for 11 years, Mr Clowser urged the court not to disqualify him as he would lose his job.

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