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Crash driver who jumped red light on busy Belfast junction avoids jail term

A motorist who jumped a red traffic light on a busy Belfast junction and ploughed into another car leaving its driver with severe injuries has been spared a jail sentence.

Matthew Spence (25), a software engineer from Ravenswood Crescent in the city, pleaded guilty to a charge of causing grievous bodily injury to the motorist by careless driving at the junction of Great Patrick Street and York Street on January 29 last year.

The university graduate was handed a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years, and was banned from driving for a year.

The injured motorist had to be cut from his vehicle by firefighters before being rushed to hospital where he was treated for a number of injuries including a shattered pelvis, bruised brain, a lacerated liver and broken ribs.

Crown lawyer Joseph Murphy told Belfast Crown Court that the collision occurred at around 8.40pm when the Honda being driven by Spence drove through a red light and ploughed into the side of a Ford Fiesta, causing both cars to spin out of control.

Mr Murphy said that as Spence approached the junction "the traffic light was red and he didn't stop at the junction".

The prosecutor said that when Spence drove through the junction the light had been red for 30 seconds and remained red for a further 25 seconds.

He also told the court another car was stationary at the junction as it had stopped for the red light, which he said "should have alerted the defendant he had to stop at that particular junction".

When police arrived at the scene Spence said he believed the light was green. Mr Murphy said the Crown accepted there was no excessive speed involved and the collision wasn't deliberate, but Spence "simply failed to stop at the junction".

The prosecutor said the injured motorist spent three-and-a-half weeks in hospital and remained on crutches for three months as a result of the collision.

Defence barrister Jon Paul Shields said Spence offered his "unreserved apologies" to the injured man, saying he felt "regret, remorse and a sense of responsibility" for the result of his actions.

Saying the incident occurred when Spence was changing lanes, his barrister said: "He had been attempting to carry out one manoeuvre and he was concentrating on that, rather than focusing on the bigger picture, which was the junction and lights."

Judge Donna McColgan spoke of the injuries caused to the other motorist in handing Spence a nine-month prison term, which she suspended for two years.

Belfast Telegraph