'Slow down' plea from judge as young driver escapes jail for crash
A judge has appealed for young drivers to "slow down" after a speeding teenager crashed his car one week after passing his test, leaving his girlfriend critically injured.
Ryan Mason was spared prison after pleading guilty to a single charge of causing grievous bodily injury to his then 16-year-old girlfriend by dangerous driving. He was given 240 hours community service and warned that if he breached the order he would be re-sentenced.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Mason (20), of The Meadows, Downpatrick, was driving his Renault Clio car when the crash happened on the Drumnaconagher Road on May 27, 2014.
Prosecution lawyer Jim Johnston said at the time Mason was 17, a restricted 'R' plate driver limited to a speed of 45 mph and had only passed his driving test a week earlier.
His girlfriend was a front seat passenger and two other friends were in the rear seat when he "lost control" of the vehicle on the narrow road. One rear seat passenger later told police that Mason was going "a wee bit quick for that type of road".
Judge Piers Grant heard that after losing control, the Clio car first hurtled into a tree, impacting on the passenger side, went into a reverse tail spin and careered into a stone wall on the passenger side again.
Mason's girlfriend took the full force of the crash, the court heard, and was rushed to the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in a critical condition.
Mr Johnston said the teenager spent 16 days receiving treatment for severe injuries, including a depressed fracture to the right side of her head.
The couple are no longer together and she has now made an almost full recovery, the judge was told, and is studying agriculture at a university in England.
David McDowell QC, defending, said Mason had "shown a great deal of remorse and is fully aware of the consequences of what he has done".
"It is pleasing that relations between the two families are as reasonable as can be expected and there is no animosity from the girl's family to Mr Mason. Mr Mason is not a tearaway who has finally got his comeuppance. He is somebody who comes from a good family and who has made a colossal mistake," he added.
Mr McDowell said Mason was now in a stable relationship and the couple have a young child.
Judge Grant also disqualified Mason from driving for three years, ordered him to sit the advanced driving test and said he would extend his 'R' plate driver period for a further two years.