Car surfing case 'too lenient' - MP

Friday, 28 September, 2007

MAGISTRATES were last night accused of being too lenient after handing down a one-year driving ban to a teenager whose friend ended up in a coma after 'car surfing' on his bonnet.

The 17-year-old A-level student was arrested for dangerous driving following a disastrous prank on the top floor of the Parkway car park in Bury St Edmunds in June.

The student, who cannot be named, admitted the offence before St Edmundsbury magistrates on Wednesday and was banned from driving for a year, given a six-month referral order and ordered to pay £55 costs.

He had allowed his friend to climb onto the bonnet of his Ford Escort from which he slipped and fell to the ground. The friend suffered a serious head injury and was in a coma for three weeks.

But David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MP, claimed the sentence would not deter other young people from engaging in similar activities.

'I think that is a lenient sentence and they should have given a much stronger signal to young people not to overstep common sense boundaries.

'Car surfing is plain damned stupid and damned dangerous. The sentence should fit the crime. I would like to have seen a serious fine plus many hours of community service.'

The injured friend, who was also 17, has now recovered.

During the court case, James Yardy, mitigating, said his client wished the incident had never taken place.

'He has no previous involvement with the criminal justice system, and is a man of good character. He is a good student who shows incredible promise. He accepts he was acting foolishly, but had no intention for harm to be caused.'

Addressing the magistrates, the 17-year-old said: 'There is not a day that has gone past when I have not regretted what happened.'

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court declined to comment on Mr Ruffley's criticism instead referring the matter to Her Majesty's Court Service, which said it did not comment on individual sentences passed by an independent judiciary.