`

Men 'swapped seats' after horrific car crash that left pedestrian in a coma, court told

Crown Court
Crown Court

A man has denied perverting the course of justice after a serious car smash - by swapping places with his pal.

Matthew Harrison, 28, of Moor Road, Chorley, is accused of swapping seats with Dominic Shepherd, 45, of Stratfield Place, Leyland, seconds after victim Andrew Sanderson, 18, was "flung in the air like a rag doll".

Prosecuting, Jon Close said: " The crown say that the driver at the time of the collision was this defendant, Matthew Harrison, and that immediately after the collision, to try and avoid the consequences of his actions, he persuaded his passenger, a smaller man, Dominic Shepherd, to swap seats, and in doing so, in seeking to hide from his culpability."

Preston Crown Court heard at 2.10am on January 3 last year, there was a collision between a black Audi A5 and the victim outside the NYX bar on Talbot Road in Blackpool.

Mr Close added: " On this night, the Audi was being driven far in excess of the speed limit. Witnesses had observed the vehicle on the approach to Talbot Road, skidding around the corner and spinning the wheels. Other witnesses were equally bemused by the standard and speed of the driving. CCTV captured the vehicle come temporarily to a stop at traffic lights on Talbot Road.

"On the green light the car accelerated at speed. Expert scene reconstruction using that CCTV was to conclude that the vehicle accelerated hard – such that when the vehicle was 55 metres from the scene of the collision the Audi was travelling at a speed in excess of 49mph.

Mr Sanderson was thrown into the air "like a rag doll" and the Audi stopped a short distance away.

He was in a coma for a week after suffering a fractured skull, haematoma and broken hip, and spent three weeks in hospital.

Mr Close added: " The issue turns on what happened next – the crown say that the Audi stopped near the promenade. Thereafter there was a gap of some 1 minute 4 seconds between the vehicle becoming stationary and the first witness approaching the driver’s door.

"You will recall that in that time the rear light clusters showed a lot of activity – brake lights repeatedly activating, along with reverse lights and individual indicators. The crown say that the cause of this was the actions of the occupants inside the vehicle. They were changing seats so that when the first witness, Samuel Fowler, approached the driver’s door a minute later he was to see Dominic Shepherd in the driver’s seat and this defendant in the passenger seat. This basic sleight of hand was sufficient to convince those first to the scene that Shepherd was the driver, a deception compounded by Shepherd’s lies and false admissions in the immediate aftermath."

The court heard a doorman at the Flying Handbag saw the Audi skid around the corner on Queen Street with Harrison at the wheel, moments before the accident and injured Andrew Sanderson.

Swabs were taken from the car showing blood droplets on the steering wheel and driver's seat that had a DNA link to Harrison, who suffered a hand injury.

Harrison denies dangerous driving and perverting the course of justice.

He claims he would have been physically unable to swap seats with Shepherd in the time allowed - but investigators reconstructed the act which took them 11 seconds.

Harrison claims when they had first left the club, he was driving - but says that during a phone argument with his partner and a subsequent row with Mr Shepherd, he pulled over the car and swapped seats with Shepherd.

Harrison took to the stand and his defence lawyer, Andrew Nuttall, quizzed him, asking: "You get into the car, you're driving, what's going on?

He replied: "It wasn't too good as I switched my phone on and my partner was arguing on the phone, and after a bit Shepherd was arguing with me as well.

"I drove to the end of the road, turned left and pulled over, I don't know whereabouts."

He said Shepherd had driven carelessly revving the engine and making "crunching noises" when he tried to change gear.

Describing the accident he said: "It was like a blur, it happened so quick. I just saw someone come out and fall on the car. It was a thud.

"After hitting the person he carried on down the road, I'm not sure how long for and he was screaming and shouting. I was saying 'what have you done', we were panicking. When we came to a stop there were people running towards the car."

(proceeding)