Driver who smashed car into family’s front room, causing life-changing injuries, jailed for five years

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A driver who crashed his car into a family’s front room, causing life-changing injuries, has been jailed for five years. 

James Andrew Sparham’s high-performance VW Golf R burst into flames when he came off the road and crashed into a residential property in York.

David Garnett, who was watching television at the time of the crash, suffered serious life-changing injuries and had to endure a long stay in hospital, while his wife Claire is still recovering from the stress of the incident, North Yorkshire Police said.

Ms Garnett has had to leave her job to become her husband’s full-time carer and the family fear they will lose their home. The cost of repairing it came in at £175,000. 

The 29-year-old driver’s two passengers – a woman in her 30s and a man in his 20s – also sustained broken bones and lacerations.

The labourer was jailed at York Crown Court after he pleaded guilty to three counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and criminal damage. He was also banned from driving for seven-and-a-half years.

The noise of the 3 September crash was like the “sound of a bomb going off” the family said in a statement. 

Ms Garnett was forced to clear the debris burying her 54-year-old husband after the car crashed into their home, it said. 

“Claire climbed over the burning car and cleared rubble off David then climbed back over it having to carry and pull David over the burning car all the while terrified it would explode. Claire fortunately rescued David to the rear of their home whilst the car set alight in their lounge setting fire to the house and its contents all of which have been lost.”

Police, firefighters and ambulance crews arrived to find a hole in the house and Sparham’s car ablaze in the living room, next to the sofa.

“As a result of the incident David sustained multiple injuries including loss of vision in his right eye, extreme lower limb injuries requiring extensive skin grafts, a broken nose and numerous soft tissue lacerations and injuries,” the family statement said. 

“David required a six-week period of hospitalisation at the Leeds Major Trauma unit and York Hospital and a gruelling period of treatment thereafter which is ongoing. David is going to be left with life- long injuries as a result of this criminal incident.”

It added: “Claire has suffered back and neck injuries as well as extensive soft tissue trauma and both have suffered severe post traumatic stress. The one place anyone should always be able to feel safe is within the four walls of your own home.”

Witnesses told police they heard “screeching” and saw the Golf being driven in a “dangerous” manner immediately before the crash.

North Yorkshire Police’s Major Collision Investigation Team launched an investigation and carried out extensive forensic tests to determine what had happened.

Experts were unable to find any evidence that Sparham had tried to avoid a collision or any defects with the vehicle.

They also recreated the incident in a controlled environment, using a similar car, and determined that even with the steering at full lock, the car should not have lost control.

After the hearing, Detective Sergeant Jeremy Bartley of the Major Collision Investigation Team, who led the investigation, said: “The choices Sparham made that night have had a catastrophic impact on innocent people.

“The damage he did was not just to a family’s home, but also to their health and their well-being – damage which continues to this day. Lives have been changed forever. The sad thing is, our investigation has shown that this incident was absolutely avoidable. It didn’t have to happen. It was an act of stupidity that had dire consequences.”

Agency contributed to this report