House-smash driver walks free

The crash scene in Ivanhoe Crescent.

The crash scene in Ivanhoe Crescent.

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A DRINK-DRIVER smashed into three houses and left a friend with multiple broken bones after “showing off” behind the wheel.

Andrew Cowell lost control of his Ford Cosworth as he demonstrated its power while giving his pals a lift home from the pub in September.

The car hit houses at Eden Vale, Sunderland, causing £30,000 of damage to one and terrifying occupants.

Cowell’s passenger Paul Donnelly suffered multiple bone fractures, and needed a metal cage fitted into his neck.

Mr Donnelly, a joiner, is still on light duties at work and may never be able to drive due to the nature of his injuries.

Back-seat passenger Ryan Bainbridge was left with a bruised hip. A third passenger, Patrick Curran, did not report any injuries.

Cowell, who was almost twice the drink-drive limit and described as travelling at speeds of up to 80mph in a 30mph zone, fled the scene, but was arrested nearby where he was hiding.

Worried witnesses rushed to help the injured. One woman told police she thought they were all dead.

Cowell, of Beckworth Green, Doxford Park – who has never been in trouble before – pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and driving with excess alcohol.

Mr Recorder Eric Elliott told him: “For reasons best known to yourself, you decided to show off to them what the vehicle could do. Very soon there was screeching tyres, and you were causing potential mayhem.”

The judge said he accepted Cowell, who cares for his younger sister after the deaths of their parents, acted out of character that night and suspended his 12-month jail term for 18 months. He was also given 250 hours’ unpaid work.

The judge said: “The only possible explanation is you were still, in fact, grieving over what had happened.”

Andrew Finlay, mitigating, said Cowell lost both his parents within a short time, and just was not thinking about things properly when he got behind the wheel.

Mr Finlay added: “He accepts responsibility for what he has done. It is a lesson to all young men, indeed anybody, just how much damage can be caused from what can be a very short piece of dangerous driving.”

@sunderlandecho