TWO Elgin City footballers have been jailed after admitting causing a crash which left a team-mate seriously injured.
Ceiran McLean (22) and Darryl McHardy (18) had previously pleaded guilty on indictment to dangerous driving charges during an earlier appearance at Elgin Sheriff Court.
Sheriff Susan Raeburn handed McLean a 12-month custodial sentence at Elgin court today (Thursday), while McHardy was detained for nine months. They were also each disqualified from driving for three years.
The accident resulted in Christopher Tucker, a passenger in the car driven by McHardy, sustaining "severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment", while another passenger, Connor McAuley, was also injured.
McLean, 83 Newmill Road, and McHardy, 26 Ben Aigen Walk, both Elgin, had pleaded guilty to driving at excessive speeds for the road conditions and repeatedly overtaking other vehicles when it was unsafe to do so. Both admitted repeatedly travelled at speeds in excess of the 60mph limit, and repeatedly in close proximity to each other’s vehicles.
McLean’s charge also stated that he drove on both sides of the road and collided with the car driven by McHardy and damage was caused to both vehicles, with severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent impairment caused to Mr Tucker, with Mr McAuley also injured.
Solicitor Brent Lockie, representing McLean, had previously said his client admitted two previous convictions, including one for a road traffic incident.
The court heard the men were driving back to Elgin from an under-21 evening match in Dingwall on September 12 last year, when they were involved in an accident on the A96 near Alves.
Fiscal depute Alison Wyllie explained that both McHardy and McLean were driving their Vauxhall Corsa cars in close proximity, with McHardy in front and McLean behind, before the accident.
They carried out a number of overtaking manoeuvres together, Ms Wyllie said, often in speeds of between 70 and 80 miles per hour.
Ms Wyllie explained that on a straight stretch of road just before Alves, the two cars came up behind a car in front of them.
McLean then pulled out to overtake McHardy, Ms Wyllie said, at the same time as McHardy also pulled out.
The two cars collided, and both drivers lost control.
McLean’s car overturned, but he and his two passengers were relatively unhurt.
McHardy’s car hit a tree, however, and McHardy, Christopher Tucker and Connor McAuley were all knocked unconscious. The passenger side of the car took most of the impact, Ms Wyllie pointed out.
McHardy and Mr McAuley were able to be helped out of the car, but Mr Tucker had to be cut free by the emergency services.
Ms Wyllie said Mr McAuley suffered a gash to the back of his head which required 13 stitches, but he made a full recovery.
However, she said Mr Tucker, who it is believed was not wearing a seatbelt, had his inner organs pushed to the left side of his body, causing his left lung to collapse.
Both femurs in his legs were broken, as was his pelvis. He also had swelling on his brain.
Ms Wyllie said he has since had numerous operations on his legs and pelvis.
Representing McHardy, defence agent Matthew O’Neill said his client, an apprentice builder, is highly regarded.
He said he had been shocked by the outcome of the collision.
"He is extremely regretful for the impact on the complainer, but also other people involved at the club. It is a small club and a close-knit club, and it has had an impact on various individuals within the club," said Mr O’Neill.
"He fully comprehends the trauma, and his sorrow is deep."
While Mr O’Neill said McHardy remains on good terms with Mr McAuley, he said there had been little contact with Mr Tucker.
Representing McLean, Mr Lockie pointed out that he is married with one child, and another due in May.
He acknowledged that his client had a previous conviction for speeding, but said his previous offences had been "relatively minor".
Mr Lockie said McLean had struggled to come to terms with what had happened and had extreme feelings of guilt.
"He’s learned a very hard life lesson, and he struggles to discuss this matter without getting very upset, and he will have to live with that guilt for the rest of his life. A fellow semi-professional footballer will never play to that level again."
Both solicitors appealed to Sheriff Raeburn to hand out community payback orders.
However, she said custody was her only recourse.
In sentencing McHardy, she pointed out that he had only held a driving licence for a few weeks at the time of the accident.
She said that inexperience, combined with his proximity to McLean’s car and the road manoeuvres conducted at speed, resulted "in an almost inevitable collision".
"It has had calamitous consequences for one of your passengers," she said.
With regards to McLean, she said that she took his previous driving conviction into account.
"The dangerous manner of your driving resulted in an horrific accident," she added.
For both men, she said she took references that she received from a variety of parties into consideration.
"It is regrettable that the sense of responsibilty you show in most aspects of your life was seriously lacking on the night in question," she said. "You must suffer the consequences of your dangerous driving."