A white van man’s reckless driving left a grandfather with life-changing injuries in a horrific incident on the A64 in York.
Lee Owen, 38, collided with David Ramskill’s Vauxhall Grandland near the Hopgrove roundabout after trying to get through a gap in the traffic “that simply didn’t exist”, York Crown Court heard.
Prosecutor Nick Adlington said that Owen’s Mercedes Sprinter van pushed into a line of traffic and cut in front of Mr Ramskill’s SUV vehicle as the two-lane carriageway merged into one.
Owen’s van was “approaching too fast to stop in time” as he tried to steer past Mr Ramskill’s car. The van struck the rear-driver’s side of the SUV.
Mr Ramskill got out of his car and walked over to remonstrate with Owen and the two men had a “heated exchange of words”.
As Mr Ramskill walked back to his car, Owen put his van into gear and accelerated “at speed” towards the victim in what the prosecution alleged was a “deliberate attempt to run Mr Ramskill down in retaliation” as Owen tried to “force his way past”.
The van again collided with the SUV and ran over Mr Ramskill’s lower leg, causing multiple fractures.
Owen, of Trinity Road, Scarborough, was charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, dangerous driving and criminal damage.
He admitted an alternative charge of wounding without intent, dangerous driving and damaging Mr Ramskill’s vehicle, but denied causing grievous bodily harm with intent, claiming his actions were reckless but not deliberate.
During his trial for causing GBH with intent in September, Mr Adlington alleged that it was a “deliberate act” on Owen’s part who tried to get through a gap in the traffic which was “simply non-existent” in what he described as a “highly dangerous manoeuvre”.
He told the jury that it was a case of “white-van man in red-mist road rage”.
However, the jury found Owen not guilty of wounding with intent which meant that his actions were a “reckless mistake” rather than a deliberate targeting of the victim.
He appeared for sentence on Friday (15 December), knowing that despite the jury’s verdict his liberty was still hanging in the balance due to his reckless act.
The incident occurred just after 1pm on March 26 last year, when Mr Ramskill and family members including his wife Helen were travelling up the A64 towards Scarborough to get some fish cand chips at the seaside.
A witness who was on his Harley Davidson motorbike said the front of Owen’s van had “lifted as it accelerated”.
Witnesses heard Mr Ramskill scream as the van ran over his lower leg, causing multiple fractures and a severe cut to his ankle.
He was tended to by members of the public until an ambulance crew arrived and took him to York Hospital.
His injuries were so serious that the following day he was transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary where had reconstructive surgery and a skin graft on his ankle. Surgeons inserted metal plates into his foot.
He was finally discharged about two weeks after the accident but needed to wear an external fixator on his leg for over a month. On his return home, he initially had to sleep in a hospital-type bed in the conservatory and had to use a wheelchair, zimmer frame and crutches.
Mr Ramskill, from Goole, East Yorkshire, told the court that the incident, which caused more than £5,000 of damage to his car, had “ruined my life”.
He said he used to be an active person but was now “completely reliant on others for everything”.
“For the first six months (after the accident) I was confined to the house,” he added.
Nearly two years on from the incident, he had still not returned to work as a roofer on the advice of his physiotherapist and had been told that his foot would “never be the same again”.
He said it had had a “huge impact” on his family and finances and they had had to cancel four holidays.
He had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, had suffered infections and was facing yet more skin grafts and possibly more surgery to fuse his ankle.
Defence barrister Emily Hassell said that Owen had made a “split-second decision” to drive through a “gap that wasn’t there” in a “moment of panic” and that he hadn’t intended to cause Mr Ramskill grave injuries.
She added that Ramskill, a father-of-one, was the main breadwinner for his family who could lose their home if he were jailed.
Judge Simon Hickey said: “This was a bad piece of driving in terms of life-changing injury and the effect it had on Mr Ramskill.”
He added, however, that he had to sentence Owen on the basis that he had driven recklessly rather than deliberately at Mr Ramskill.
He said that despite the victim’s ongoing “pain and suffering”, he could “just” suspend the inevitable jail sentence because Owen would lose his job and his family could lose their home if he were jailed.
The 20-month jail sentence was suspended for 18 months during which Owen will have to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. The judge ordered him to pay Mr Ramskill £2,000 compensation.
Owen was banned from driving for two-and-a-half years.