Cannabis driver who crashed head-on into pensioner was first convicted of drug-driving aged just 14

A driver who crashed head-on into a pensioner’s car before fleeing the scene on foot was first convicted of driving under the influence of cannabis when he was aged just 14, a court has heard.

Shane Palethorpe smashed into the oncoming car while performing a dangerous over-taking manoeuvre on a county road.

He ran away from the scene but was pursued by members of the public who were able to tell police where he was hiding. When officers found the 28-year-old he was described as “foaming at the mouth” and drowsy. He would later claim he crashed while reaching for his mobile phone which had fallen to the floor.

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Swansea Crown Court heard shortly before noon of March 22 this year a woman was driving near Furnace on the outskirts of Llanelli when she saw in her rear view mirror a grey Audi car approaching from behind.

Georgina Buckley, prosecuting, said the Audi – being driven by Palethorpe – pulled out as if to overtake but instead drove alongside the other car for a short distance. At the same time a Vauxhall Corsa car being driven by a 79-year-old woman was approaching in the opposite direction, and Palethorpe drove straight into the front of it.

The court heard the defendant did not stop to check on the pensioner but instead ran away into the undergrowth and bushes. Other motorists who had stopped at the scene followed the fleeing Palethorpe, and were able to inform police of his movements. Officers found him a short time later at a nearby farm where he was described sweaty, drowsy, and “foaming at the mouth”.

The court heard he was taken to hospital where he was asked to provide a sample of blood for testing – the defendant refused, and then disappeared from the hospital.

Meanwhile the pensioner he crashed into was also taken to hospital suffering with cuts and bruises to her arms and chest. She was kept in overnight before being discharged the following day.

The court heard Palethorpe remained at large for almost two months before going to a police station for a voluntary interview during which he told officers he had been distracted at the time of the crash after dropping his phone and trying to retrieve it.

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Shane Palethorpe, of Biddulph Estate, Llanelli, had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident, and failing to provide a specimen for analysis when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.

The court heard he has numerous convictions on his record including for robbery and burglary as well as motoring matters. He has a conviction for driving while unfit through drink or drugs when he was aged 14 – the defendant shouted out from the dock that the drug in question was cannabis while the judge and barristers were discussing this conviction – as well as a conviction for dangerous driving committed when he was aged 16. He also has a conviction for careless driving and failing to stop after an accident in connection to a collision which happened while he was being investigated for the Furnace crash.

David Singh, for Palethorpe, said the period of dangerous driving had not been a prolonged one, though it had to be accepted it resulted in a crash and significant injuries. The barrister said his client had had a “difficult background”, and he asked the judge to take into account a letter written to the court by the defendant’s partner.

Judge Paul Thomas QC told Palethorpe that when he got behind the wheel of his car on the day in question not only was he disqualified but he was also clearly unfit to drive through the use of drugs. He said the defendant had driven dangerously and without regard for other road users, and had then compounded matters by running off the crash. The judge told the defendant he was fortunate the Crown Prosecution Service had decided the injuries he had caused fell just short of the level where a charge of causing serious injury by dangerous driving could be preferred otherwise he would be facing a significant prison sentence.

Judge Thomas said he had read what he described as the “moving letter” penned by Palethrope’s partner which outlined the impact a period of prison would have on those in the defendant’s life, but he told the defendant there was only one person to blame if others suffered while he was in custody, and that was the defendant himself.

Giving the defendant the required one-third discount for his guilty pleas the judge sentenced him to eight months in prison. The defendant will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community. Palethorpe was banned from driving for a total of 22 months, and must pass an extended test before he can get a licence.

Dyfed-Powys Police does not release custody photographs of defendants sentenced to less than 12 months in prison.

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