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Motoring menace jailed for causing horror smash which left two badly hurt

Lee Christopher Cooney

A speeding disqualified driver who caused a north Cumbria horror crash which left two other motorists with catastrophic injuries has been jailed for three years.

Lee Christopher Cooney, 43, was said by one eyewitness to be travelling aggressively and “like a bullet” in a Volkswagen Golf as he overtook one car on a service road leading from Gretna towards Blackford, Carlisle, on the morning of 3rd December, 2019.

Southbound Cooney came up behind a Ford Transit van but, as he tried to overtake, he lost control while trying to avoid a northbound Renault Clio as it came around a bend. Cooney’s Golf collided first with the Transit and then with the Clio. Prosecutor Betsy Hindle told Carlisle Crown Court: “During the investigation, the speedometer of the defendant’s vehicle was, in fact, stuck on a speed of 84mph.”

Transit driver Colin Smith, from Annan, forced open his door and initially tried to assist Cooney – who was also injured – but became dizzy with blood “beginning to pour from his head”.

Christine Mumberson, from Carlisle, was cut free from her Clio, which ended up in a ditch. She suffered two breaks to her neck which required a spinal “halo” brace for nine weeks and extensive rehabilitation, along with broken ribs, fractured fingers, a badly sprained ankle and laceration to her left knee which required 11 stitches.

Mr Smith’s multiple injuries included damaged right shoulder cartilage and ligaments, a broken left radius which required an operation to realign and plate, temporary sight impairment, and bruising and tenderness to his entire body.

In impact statements, Mr Smith spoke of a “major impact upon my whole life” and having his 30-year joinery career ended, while grandmother Ms Mumberson described suffering flashbacks, anxiety and depression, and reflected: “I could have died.”

Cooney, of Caird Avenue, Carlisle, sustained a punctured lung and head and hand injuries. His first action after the crash was to try and light a cigarette, the court heard. He was also seen walking away from the scene, provided a positive drugs swipe for cannabis and cocaine, and was found to have taken other substances prior to the incident – but was not over any legal limit.

However, the court did hear of an appalling motoring record and multiple previous driving while disqualified offences on a rap sheet showing 131 crimes. Cooney admitted two counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and had said he was deeply sorry.

“This is a serious incident of dangerous driving,” said Judge Nicholas Barker as he jailed Cooney and imposed a 78-month driving ban.

“You had no regard to the safety of road users.”