Mercedes driver, 62, who seriously injured two 22-year-old women in a head-on crash with their VW Polo is spared jail – after judge said his soft drink manufacturing business would suffer if he went to prison
- Andrew Hulme, 62, smashed head-on into a VW after losing control of his motor
- One victim was left with fractures to her spine and the other bit through her lip
- Hulme pleaded to a judge if he was jailed his employees could lose their jobs
A ‘careless’ driver who left two young women seriously hurt in a head-on car crash has been spared jail after a judge ruled his business would be ‘imperiled’ if he went to prison.
Company director Andrew Hulme, 62, ploughed into an oncoming VW Polo with his Mercedes C class estate after clipping a kerb on a bend and losing control.
The VW driver Kate O’Connor, 22, was left scarred for life having bitten through her lip in the impact. While her best friend Fionnuala McBride, 22, suffered multiple fractures to her spine and collarbone and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair.
Hulme, who runs soft drinks manufacturing firm Flavour Master Ltd, had been drinking before the smash in Standish, near Wigan, Greater Manchester, but was found to be under the drink-driving limit.
The 62-year-old was spared jailed, however, after a letter from his company accountant convinced a judge being locked up could cost employees their jobs. Instead the drinks firm boss was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work.
The VW driver Kate O’Connor (right), 22, was left scarred for life having bitten through her lip in the impact. While her best friend Fionnuala McBride, 22, suffered multiple fractures to her spine and collarbone and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair
Hulme, who runs soft drinks manufacturing firm Flavour Master Ltd, had been drinking before the smash in Standish, near Wigan, Greater Manchester. Pictured is the devastating aftermath of the collision
Andrew Hulme, 62, was branded ‘irresponsible’ for his actions – but he has been spared jailed after convincing a judge being locked up would damage his business and could cost employees their jobs. Hulme is pictured outside Bolton Crown Court
Judge Tom Gilbart told him: ‘The two victims were going about their lives when their world was turned upside down by your carelessness behind the wheel. Their statements lay bare the suffering that they have endured and continue to endure and no sentence I pass will cure these issues or set them back to the way they were.
‘You recognise the way you approached the corners and the bends had been irresponsible. You have made apologies for your actions, shown remorse for your victims and I am satisfied that they are genuine.
‘You have a history of work and running your own business, which employs a number of people and am satisfied that the future of the business will be imperilled if you go to custody. Immediate custody would be harmful to others.’
The crash, caught on Hulme’s own dashcam device, occurred at 7.23pm on the June 29 2022 in Chorley Road after he had driven to see his sister and have a drink with friends.
Prosecutor Andrew Mackintosh said: ‘As he approached a bend there is a sign warning of a skid risk and also a sign warning of bends. But as he passed through the second of two bends he caught the near side verge and was propelled across the carriageway into the path of Miss O’Connor’s car.
‘Whether that was the result of poor driving, the speed he was travelling at, and the effect of alcohol, they would certainly all appear to have contributed to his actions.’
Ms O’Connor had been driving home with university student Ms McBride having visited her grandmother earlier in the evening.
She saw Hulmes’s car ‘drive through a the bushes on the opposite side of the road’ before it slammed into her VW, Mr Mackintosh told the court.
The crash which was caught on Hulme’s own dashcam device occurred at about 7.23pm on the June 29 2022 in Chorley Road after he was driving to see his sister having a drink with friends
Ms O’Connor, left, had been driving home with university student Ms McBride having visited her grandmother earlier in the evening
Fionnuala McBride (left) 22, suffered multiple fractures to her spine and collarbone and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair
The prosecutor said the victims claimed the Hulme had been ‘driving very fast – “approximately 70mph” – although it would appear the defendant was not traveling that fast’.
He added: ‘Ms O’Connor states that she was knocked unconscious and does not remember getting out of the vehicle and was told it was 20-30 minutes later that she woke up.
‘She says that due to the collision she bit through her lip which has caused a permanent lump and scar which has altered her appearance and bothers her daily.
‘She suffered lacerations on her neck and hips due to the seatbelt and that her arms were badly bruised. She could not walk or lift anything properly for months and still has issues with her neck, back and shoulder.
‘Ms McBride was in hospital for five days and had to wear a neck and back brace and a corset around her pelvis for eight weeks.
‘For the first three or four weeks after the collision she couldn’t walk due to the damage to her knee and had to use a wheelchair.
‘She says that the incident has severely impacted her life. She missed her university graduation and a summer school which she was due to attend, and that has taken a toll on her relationship with her boyfriend.
Kate O’Connor, 22, was knocked unconscious during the crash and suffered from lacerations on her neck and hips due to the seatbelt. Her her arms were badly bruised, the court heard
Fionnuala said her life had been ruined by the crash, having missed her university graduation and been left in temporarily confined to a wheelchair
‘She states that she was unable to work for a year and a half and that she still suffers from back pain and is unable to participate in sport as she used to do.’
Hulme, from Aspull near Wigan, helped free the women from the wreckage of the Polo but was said by an eye witness at the scene to be ‘in shock and unable to speak’.
When quizzed by police he said: ‘I did my best to control and steer my vehicle. I wish to say that I am sorry for any injury caused to any other party and would be grateful if my apologies could be extended to them.’
In a statement, Miss O’Connor said she was seeking counselling to deal with the aftermath of the crash.
‘The collision caused a change to my aesthetic appearance and as a female who takes pride in her appearance, I found this extremely difficult to cope and deal with,’ she added.
‘It caused me not to want to leave the house as it knocked my confidence massively. Before the crash, I was in the gym 24/7 and lifted heavyweights regularly. Since then, I have only just been able to restart the gym eight months later and have not been able to go since then properly which has taken a toll on my mental health.
‘I feel like I am not the person I used to be following the collision, I have had to make adjustments in my life as I am not able to sit down for any prolonged periods of time.
‘I am generally uncomfortable all of the time and my bones crack 24/7 from the injuries and stress from the collision.
Hulme was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months along with 200 hours of unpaid work
Ms McBride said: ‘Since the accident, I feel uneasy if cars go past me quickly, I find myself gasping when this happens, almost panicked by it.
‘The most important thing to me right now, I am a singer, and the neck injury I sustained makes it very difficult to hit the notes. The pain I suffer every day, I navigate, and get on with, but I would say this has massively affected my confidence.
‘To compare my lifestyle, before and after the accident. Before, I had a place in Portugal, where I would sing, swim and spend time at the beach, and now it seems like I wouldn’t be able to do that any time soon.
‘ I was living alone in Lisbon very independently, but I went from that to living back with my parents, constantly needing support and help to do basic things.’
In mitigation for Hulme defence counsel Rhys Rosser said: ‘He did not take account of the skid risks and bends. It might not have been excessive speed but it does seem to be inappropriate driving. The depth of sadness he feels is made clear.
‘Immediate custody would also result in a significant impact on his business, it would result in loss of employment for staff.
‘Mr Hulme’s daughter’s letter sets out the support he gives her in terms of employment and personal support. There are many people who do rely on him.’
As well as his suspended sentence, Hulme was also banned from driving for 18 months. He had a previous speeding conviction from 1986 and completed a speed awareness course in 2016.
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