A funeral director “who took a chance and can now take the consequences” has been jailed today for causing a head on collision while more than twice over the drink drive limit.
Colin Phillips, aged 50, admitted a recently introduced charge of causing serious injury while driving dangerously, and also driving with excess alcohol in his blood.
Swansea crown court heard how Hazel James knew Phillips was going too fast to take a bend safely before he ploughed his Audi A6 estate into the front of her Landrover Freelander on the A487 one mile south of Cardigan.
She suffered multiple fractures and will need a knee replacement.
Mrs James, aged 48, knew Phillips and at the last moment before the collision she recognised the number plate of his car.
She was left trapped in her vehicle, with heat rising from underneath and unable to get out. Passers-by pulled her free.
Phillips, of, Postgwyn, Eglwyswrw, told the first police officer on the scene, “Leighton, I’m sorry. I’ve had too much to drink and I was on the wrong side of the road.”
Later, Phillips told police he could not remember the accident at all.
Judge Peter Heywood was told today that at 9pm on November 2 last year Phillips had been heading home after collecting a takeaway meal from a Chinese restaurant in Cardigan and Mrs James had been driving towards the same restaurant.
After rounding a hill she saw bright car lights, as if they were on full beam, coming towards her. She thought it was on the wrong side of the road and that it would not negotiate the bend safely because it was going too fast.
Nicola Powell, prosecuting, said Mrs James braked hard but could not avoid the collision.
At an earlier hearing, the court had been told that, at the moment of impact, at least three quarters of Phillips’ Audi had been on the wrong side of the road.
Mrs James, who once worked with Phillips, suffered a broken right leg, a seriously injured wrist and a knee injury that was likely to cause arthritis and would require a knee replacement at some point in the future.
Phillips, the court heard, had called into a nearby pub while waiting for his meal to be prepared.
Huw Rees, the barrister representing Phillips, said he understood and appreciated that the collision could have had “fatal and enormous consequences.”
He said Phillips ran a business in a “small but vibrant town” and had already suffered a considerable fall from grace.
He was a rugby referee at weekends and was now the “object of ridicule in the rugby world.”
Mr Rees said Phillips had an unblemished past and the judge had to decide if, at the age of 50, he had to experience prison for the first time.
Judge Heywood adjourned sentencing Phillips while he considered all that he had heard.
On his return he told the court that there were no sentencing guidelines to refer to because the offences of causing injury while driving dangerously was such a new one.
But he could take into account sentences for causing death by dangerous driving, and they had been recently increased.
Phillips, he said, was of impeccably good character, ran a local business that others relied on, and had the benefit of a host of testimonials.
But he had drunk a “significant” amount of alcohol before driving and the result had been serious injuries to Mrs James.
“You, knowingly having consumed alcohol, got behind that wheel of that car.”
Phillips’ partner and his daughters wept as Judge Heywood added, “You took a gamble and the stakes were extremely high, as Mrs James was to find out. You took a gamble and can take the consequences
“She thought in advance that you would not round that bend safely.”
Judge Heywood said he would fail his public duty if he did not pass a sentence of immediate custody.
Phillips was jailed for 14 months and banned from driving for two years. He was also ordered to take an extended driving test before getting his licence back and told to pay a government surcharge of £100.