Road smash soldier is spared prison sentence

Crime story
Crime story

AN “EXCEPTIONAL” soldier who took his mum’s car while she slept and crashed it into an on-coming taxi was spared a jail sentence – so he can continue to serve his country.

A judge told Jonathan Duckworth, who has seen active service in Afghanistan and served in the Falklands, that the offence warranted a prison sentence but he was taking a “wholly exceptional course.

What happened on this particular night is a complete and utter aberration and he accepts that

Rob Haygarth - defending

“You are exceptionally well regarded by your Company and Platoon commander and are regarded as a good candidate for promotion. In summary you are regarded as a positive asset by the Army and in the context of contributing to the interests of this country,” said Judge Robert Warnock.

The taxi driver, Adam Bethom, who was not wearing a seatbelt, suffered a fractured vertebrae, cuts and bruises. He has still not returned to work six months later as he is nervous about getting behind the wheel. He has also been left with a scar on his forehead. The judge ordered 24-year-old Duckworth to pay him £2,400 compensation at £200 a month and ordered him to carry out 240 hours’ unpaid work which is to fit around an imminent two-month tour of duty in Kenya. He also banned him from driving for 18 months.

Duckworth, of Clipsey Lane, Haydock, a soldier in the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment for four years, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicle-taking.

Paul Blasbery, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that Duckworth, who later admitted he had been drinking all day and evening, took his mother’s Peugeot without permission in the early hours of August 10 to collect a woman friend in St Helens. He picked her up and was on the way back about 3.20am along Haresfinch Road when he lost control after a S-bend and the vehicle began “snaking” before crashing into the taxi.

As well as injuring Mr Bethom, Duckworth’s passenger Lauren Graves suffered bruising to her ribs, leg, collar bone and shoulder. Mr Bethom, who woke up in an ambulance, spent four days in hospital and had to wear a neck brace for three months.

The court heard that when Duckworth, who has a baby son, was breathalysed an hour after the crash and was found to have 39 micrograms in 100ml of breath and consequently was not prosecuted for drink-driving.

Rob Haygarth, defending, said that Duckworth’s Army career would be ended if he was jailed. “What happened on this particular night is a complete and utter aberration and he accepts that. He showed remorse from the first moment and became distressed and emotional when told about the extent of the victim’s injuries.”

His commanding officer, 2nd Lt Tom Bush, told the judge: “He is an exceptional soldier and the accident was totally out of character. Since the birth of his son he has just been concentrating on his career and his son. We really don’t want to lose him.”