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Court heard Henry Stangroom's decision to drive on 'beggared belief'
A YOUNG chef drove three miles in a severely damaged car, unaware he had hit another young man who lay dying in the road, a court heard.
Winchester Crown Court heard that Henry Stangroom believed he may have hit a deer, and drove on to a friend’s house in a car with a shattered windscreen he could barely see out of. Meanwhile, 19-year-old Jack Bland, of London Road, Odiham, lay dying in the road. He was discovered by another motorist.
Prosecutor Simon Jones said the accident happened at about 3.20am on September 11 last year, as Stangroom was driving along the A287 towards Odiham in his Peugeot car. His friend Oliver Mason was in the passenger seat and the two had been to a 21st birthday party earlier that night.
Mr Jones said the police believed Stangroom, then 19, had no chance to avoid Mr Bland, right, as the latter was walking well out in the road as the verge was narrow. The court heard Mr Bland had been to a wedding reception and had also been to a birthday party, but had decided to walk home instead of taking a taxi. He had not appeared drunk to witnesses, said Mr Jones.
The police investigation concluded that “the collision was unavoidable for the driver and the results were tragically inevitable”, Mr Jones said. Mr Bland was found near the entrance to Stanhope Farm and died from his injuries a little more than an hour later at Basingstoke hospital .
After a media witness appeal, Stangroom gave police a statement. He said that something hit his bumper as he was driving and he assumed it was a deer. He drove back but could see nothing in the road, and then he drove to his friend Oliver Leach’s house in Dogmers-field.
Mr Jones said Mr Mason reported how Stang-room took a shower at Oliver Leach’s family home “as he was covered in glass and blood”.
A speck of Mr Bland’s blood had been found on Mr Mason’s shoe, but he had not been able to account for it, Mr Jones added. He had also refused police requests to provide a further statement, Mr Jones said.
The collision had smashed the nearside dipped beam bulb and the windscreen. The police said Stangroom’s ability to see out of the car would have been very much impaired.
Driving to Mr Leach’s address was a mile further than the journey from the accident to the defendant’s home. “It was, on any level, dangerous driving to have undertaken such a journey in a car in such a state,” said Mr Jones.
A test of Stangroom’s urine had revealed no alcohol, but the sample had been taken quite a while after the accident, Mr Jones added.
He said Stangroom had no previous convictions, but three penalty points for speeding.
Stangroom, of Rye Common, Odiham, was before the court to be sentenced, having pleaded guilty to dangerous driving. James Devane, defending, said it was “a tragic case with tragic consequences” and Mr Stangroom was “extremely remorseful” and always mindful of “the consequences of that fateful night”. He was an inexperienced driver who admitted he had made the wrong decision to continue driving.
Sentencing, Judge Guy Boney said everyone would have sympathy for the family of Jack Bland, but it had been correct not to charge Stangroom with causing death by dangerous or careless driving.
He said the evidence suggested Mr Bland’s death was an accident. But he said it “beggared belief” that Stangroom had driven more than three miles with his car in such an extremely dangerous condition. “This was dangerous driving of quite a high order,” he said.
The judge said a prison sentence would comple-tely ruin Stangroom’s life, and he hoped Mr Bland’s family would understand.
Stangroom was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and to complete 150 hours of unpaid work. Stangroom was further disqualified from driving for 18 months and will be required to take an extended driving test.