'Despicable' driver jailed after smashing stolen car through crash barriers onto A1 motorway below

Hugh Holmes and the stolen vehicle, which landed upside down on the A1 motorway after being ploughed through the barriers of the flyover above. Credit: Durham Constabulary

A driver who smashed through a crash barrier over the A1(M) near Durham and landed on the motorway below, seriously injuring his passenger, has been jailed for almost three years.

The behaviour of Hugh Raymond Holmes, 32, of Spennymoor, was described as 'despicable' by a judge at Durham Crown Court today.

Sentencing him to 32 months in prison, and expressing frustration that he was unable to give Holmes more jail time due to sentencing rules, Judge Ray Singh praised drivers at the scene who had gone to help his unconscious passenger.

At the same time Holmes was trying to suggest his passenger had been driving while he attempted to leave the scene.

Holmes was already disqualified from driving when he stole a Vauxhall Astra in January and drove it around for an hour and a half, with the owner's mother in the passenger seat.

At one point, she was spotted trying to escape the car.

Judge Singh said while Holmes refused to take a breath test after the accident, there was 'strong evidence' that he was under the influence of either alcohol or drugs.

The judge said the potential danger to other road users was 'immeasurable'. Credit: Durham Constabulary

As he approached the Bowburn roundabout near Durham at high speed at about 10.30am on 21 January, the court heard that Holmes overtook stationary cars at a red traffic light, almost crashed head-on into a Jeep and then smashed into a van which sent the Astra careering across the roundabout and through the crash barrier.

There the car teetered for a moment above the A1 (M) motorway, before flipping off the bridge and landing on its roof on the central reservation.

Holmes kicked open the drivers' door, leaving his injured passenger behind, and immediately started telling witnesses that she had been driving, not him.

He then attempted to make off up the embankments of the motorway but was stopped by a member of the public before police arrived.

Holmes pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury, driving while disqualified and aggravated vehicle taking. He was banned from driving for a further four years, on top of a ban of more than six years on his record.

The car teetered above the A1, before flipping off the bridge and landing on its roof on the central reservation. Credit: Durham Constabulary

Judge Singh said: "The potential danger to other road users was immeasurable. It is fortunate that those injuries were not catastrophic, although they were really serious'.

His passenger suffered a broken neck, a smashed leg, spinal fractures and a bleed on the brain and still has to use a wheelchair to get about, although it is hoped that she will walk again.

The judge also praised the actions of motorists who helped the injured woman at the scene and extinguished a fire in the glovebox of the car 'at considerable risk to themselves'.

The court had been told that Holmes had 28 previous convictions for 48 offences, including drink driving, dangerous driving and violent offences.