Crash victim's wife calls for tougher jail terms

THE WIFE of an Ipswich man who suffered a broken back when a 20-year-old motorist ploughed into his car at 80mph while fleeing from police has called for tougher penalties for offenders who injure people while driving dangerously.

Jane Hunt

THE WIFE of an Ipswich man who suffered a broken back when a 20-year-old motorist ploughed into his car at 80mph while fleeing from police has called for tougher penalties for offenders who injure people while driving dangerously.

Joanne Gentry was speaking after a judge, who locked up Davide Mendes for 16 months, said the maximum sentence he could impose for dangerous driving was two years.

Recorder Martyn Levett acknowledged that some people might think this was too low and said although sentences for causing death by dangerous driving and death by careless driving had recently been increased the maximum for dangerous driving remained at two years.

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Mrs Gentry, whose 38-year-old husband Rob sustained massive injuries in the crash on July 10, said she had been made aware of the maximum sentence for dangerous driving before yesterday's hearing and the 16 months detention in a young offenders' institute passed on Mendes was “more or less” what she expected.

“At the end of the day no sentence will make up for what has happened to my husband,” she said.

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She said that following changes in sentencing for causing death by dangerous and careless driving the maximum sentence for dangerous driving where injury was caused should also be increased.

After the case Mendes' sister who had been in court while her brother was sentenced approached Mrs Gentry and expressed her regret at what had happened to her husband.

Mendes, of Orchard Street, Ipswich admitted dangerous driving, driving without insurance and driving otherwise than in accordance with his licence. In addition to the custodial sentence he was banned from driving for three years.

Richard Kelly, prosecuting told the court that Mendes was a Portugese national who had lived in the UK for six months prior to the incident involving Mr Gentry.

On the morning in question he had driven home from work at 6am with two colleagues and following an argument had become involved in a fight in Milner Street, Ipswich which resulted in the police being called.

When officers arrived on the scene Mendes had jumped into his sister's Vauxhall Vectra and had sped away.

Mr Kelly said Mendes was only a provisional licence holder and was therefore not allowed and not insured to drive without being supervised by a qualified driver.

After leaving Milner Street Mendes had driven to Grove Lane where he had failed to give way to traffic causing a motorist to take avoiding action.

He had then crossed red traffic lights at the junction of Grove Lane and Warwick Road and had driven on the wrong side of the road along Warwick Road at 50mph.

He turned left into Woodbridge Road and drove on the wrong side of the road causing a cyclist, who estimated Mendes' speed to be 70mph, to mount the pavement.

It was at this point the police decided to abandon their pursuit.

“Unfortunately for Robert Gentry at about this time he was leaving his home to go to work,” said Mr Kelly.

As Mr Gentry turned out of Khartoum Road into Woodbridge Road heading towards the town centre Mendes clipped a kerb near the Case is Altered pub while he was driving at 80mph and careered across the road where he smashed into Mr Gentry's VW Golf.

“The impact was akin to an explosion,” said Mr Kelly.

Mr Gentry immediately felt excruciating back pain and had to be cut from the wreckage of his car by the emergency services.

In addition to suffering a broken back Mr Gentry of Lonsdale Close, Ipswich suffered an arterial bleed in his knee. He underwent hours of surgery, including an operation to fit a plate to his spine and although he is now able to walk with a stick he still has to wear a frame attached to his back and faces the prospect of further surgery.

In a statement read to the court design engineer Mr Gentry, whose work involved visiting building sites, described the terrible impact the accident had had on his life and on his wife and his 11-year-old step-daughter Emily and two-year-old son Charlie.

Neil Saunders for Mendes said his client had panicked when police arrived on the scene in Milner Road and had decided to drive off.

“He has admitted his full role in this tragic incident and has expressed considerable remorse for the consequences of his actions. If he could turn back the clock he would. He has to live with these consequences for the rest of his life but obviously not in the same way as Mr Gentry,” he said.

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