Chauffeur jailed for Stansted crash

PUBLISHED: 10:20 20 January 2009 | UPDATED: 07:09 30 May 2010

A FORMER chauffeur convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a physiotherapist left paralysed after a high-speed road crash near Stansted Airport has been jailed for three years.

Paul Prior, 39, was also given a three-year ban following the collision

A FORMER chauffeur convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to a physiotherapist left paralysed after a high-speed road crash near Stansted Airport has been jailed for three years.

Paul Prior, 39, was also given a three-year ban following the collision on the A120 which left Cate Stephens paralysed from the neck down.

Prior, from Leigh on Sea, had admitted dangerous driving but was convicted of grievous bodily harm by a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court in December.

It was the first time that a driver has been convicted at trial of GBH although one motorist had pleaded guilty to the same charge on an earlier occasion.

Witnesses said Prior, who told police that he once chauffeured films stars Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, was travelling at about 120mph and had been veering in and out of traffic and "tail-gating" in his Audi A8 before the crash in September 2006.

He walked away without injury and told police officers he had been looking through paperwork as he drove to an airport pick-up.

At the time of the collision 26-year-old Miss Stephens, who was originally from Leicestershire, was working at Colchester Garrison and had moved to Bury St Edmunds.

Now aged 28, she will have to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair and signed documents for the court case by using a pen in her mouth.

Speaking afterwards, the investigating officer, Sgt Andy Swan, issued a damning statement about Prior's actions.

He said: "Although this investigation may hit the headlines for a variety of reasons, we should not forget Paul Prior's abysmal driving display.

"He took the wheel of his powerful car and changed the life of a young physiotherapist.

"Cate Stephens understands that she will never be able to pursue her promising career.

"Paul Prior has never expressed any remorse, but he now has the opportunity to reflect on his actions.

"Essex Police will not tolerate such appalling driving. We will ensure dangerous motorists are brought to justice.

"We aim to make our roads the safest in the country and will not stop in our quest to do so, illustrated by this case which has taken over two years to bring to court.

"We also vigorously pursued this case to highlight the large gap between the sentencing guidelines for the offences of dangerous driving and causing death by dangerous driving.

"We ensured we left no stone unturned. This was a fundamental, crucial aspect of the investigation which we used as the springboard to prosecute him.

"This case highlights the tough stance Essex Police takes against dangerous drivers - if you choose to dice with death, and more importantly put the lives of others on the line, then be prepared to face jail where you can contemplate your behaviour.

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