Driver who crippled woman on Mother's Day by ploughing into her has sentence cut

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A driver who crippled a woman on Mother's Day by ploughing into her car, following a "momentary lapse of concentration", has had his sentence cut by top judges.

Craig Harding had a clean licence and had never been in trouble for his driving before, when he went into the back of 60-year-old Marilyn McKnight's car.

The disastrous collision occurred on the A19, near Hutton Henry, in County Durham, on Sunday, March 15 last year.

Probation worker Mrs McKnight, who was taking her son and daughter-in-law to visit her own elderly mother, suffered terrible injuries.

She was left tetraplegic and reliant on others for her daily needs.

Harding, a 38-year-old engineer, of Outram Street, Houghton-le-Spring, was jailed for 16 months at Durham Crown Court on March 11 this year.

He pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

But Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and Mrs Justice Andrews, sitting at London's Criminal Appeal Court, today cut his sentence to 10 months.

The court heard the crash happened when a car braked sharply while the occupants were "rubbernecking" at an accident on the opposite carriageway.

This caused a "concertina effect", with other cars having to pull up more and more sharply, until Harding crashed into the back of Mrs McKnight.

Harding had not applied his brakes until after the collision and Mrs Justice Andrews said: "It can only be inferred that he too was distracted by the (other) accident."

Mrs Justice Andrews said it was a "tragic incident", adding that Harding had been travelling at a "reasonable speed" of 45mph at the time.

He had been distracted from the road ahead of him for just one-and-a-half to two seconds, she added.

Enquiries made by the court had drawn a "gracious response" from Mrs McKnight, who said she harboured no ill-feelings towards Harding.

His lawyers today asked the court to free him by suspending his sentence.

Mrs Justice Andrews said that the case fell "right at the bottom" of the scale in terms of the culpability of the driver.

But she refused to suspend the sentence.

She said: "We are not persuaded. Driving of this nature is inherently dangerous and needs to be marked with a custodial sentence."

However, she went on to reduce Harding's jail term, saying: "We do consider that the sentence was too high.

"The cause of all of this was that the car ahead inexplicably braked at the head of the queue.

"Whilst Harding did take his eyes off the road, that was a very important factor.

"We think the appropriate sentence in this case would have been 10 months."