Victim of drink driver is ‘let down by court’

A DRINK-driver who crashed into the side of a bungalow in Downend as a woman slept inside has been banned from the roads.

But resident Charlotte Potter says she feels “let down” by the court system – as the driver could be back on the road in under a year.

Charlotte, who has a disability from a spinal injury and uses a wheelchair, has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has not yet been able to move back into her home, nearly nine months after the incident.

She was in bed when the car driven by 19-year-old Brooke Elliott left Badminton Road and crashed into her house, at 2.30am on December 3 last year.

The car went over a verge, across a side turning and through Charlotte’s garden wall, before hitting the corner of her home, breaching the wall and damaging the kitchen, next to the bedroom.

Elliott, of Oak Tree Close, Mangotsfield, appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court in August and pleaded guilty to charges of drink driving and driving without due care and attention.

She was fined £159, plus costs, and disqualified from driving for 14 months – but this can be reduced by 14 weeks if she takes a course, which would mean the total ban would be less than a year.

Charlotte, who attended the court case, says she has been left “angry and upset” by what she feels is an unduly lenient sentence from the magistrates.

She said: “The moment they said the sentence I fell out of my wheelchair and lay on the floor crying. I was devastated.

“They’ve let her get away with ruining my life.

“I did a victim impact statement, which I was meant to be reading out to the court, but they refused to let me.

“I got no compensation, I got nothing – I feel really let down by the court system.”

Charlotte is now considering bringing a civil court case for damages.

After the collision her home was declared unsafe and she stayed with her neighbour, but was told by her care provider that they could not visit her there.

Housing association Bromford found her temporary accommodation, but it is several miles away in Filton, in an assisted living development for older people.

Charlotte was taken to hospital shortly after moving and spent two weeks there, including one in intensive care, after having seizures.

She said: “My health has deteriorated rapidly since this has happened, and my GP is putting it down partly to the stress. If I hear a noise when I’m asleep, I get up and go straight to the kitchen – even though I’m now in a first-floor flat.

“I’m living so far away from my friends and family, I feel isolated.”

Bromford has nearly finished repairing Charlotte’s home but she also has to wait for her insurers to pay out for repairs and replacements for her contents: her carpet and sofa were ruined by mould, as was a specialist mattress that cost £3,500, after being exposed to the elements.

Charlotte, who previously lost two friends in a crash caused by a drink-driver, asked South Gloucestershire Council to consider installing bollards where the car left the road, but has had her request turned down.

Avon & Somerset police said Elliott’s blood sample showed she had 99 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – above the legal limit for driving of 80mg per 100 ml.

The force said the sample was taken “several hours after the incident”. Usually a test for evidence would be done at a police station soon after a suspect is arrested, but this was not possible because Elliott had been taken to hospital.

A police spokesperson said: “Driving while intoxicated can lead to catastrophic consequences. It is reckless and irresponsible.

“On this occasion, thankfully no one was seriously hurt but the victim had to move out of her home for some time.”