Driver who left pals for dead in pig field loses appeal

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A drunk driver who left his badly injured friend for dead in a pig field in the depths of winter has been told by top judges that his three-and-a-half-year jail term was not a day too long.

Philip Johnson, 29, was “intoxicated” after spending hours in the pub on the night of December 21 2013.

He crashed his car into a tree on Common Road, Haydock, at 6.30am, knocking himself and three friends who were in his car unconscious.

Johnson fled, leaving two of the passengers still out cold. One, student Ryan Forber, had suffered a serious head injury, which kept him in hospital for 12 weeks. Johnson, who had returned home, was later arrested, after another motorist alerted police to the crash. He was jailed at Chester Crown Court in August, having admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and received a five-year road ban.

He asked Appeal Court judges to reduce both the jail term and disqualifcation.

The court heard Johnson had offered his pals a lift home from the pub, but was drunk at the wheel and ignored their pleas to slow down. He lost control of the car on approaching a bend on a 50mph road and hit a tree.

When police attended his house, he was found to be twice the drink-drive limit and “tried to lie his way out of it.” However, he eventually pleaded guilty.

Mr Forber, in his victim impact statement, spoke bitterly of Johnson saying: “I cannot see how Phil Johnson could leave me to die in a pig field in the depths of winter.”

And Mr Justice Holroyde said: “It is not possible to ignore his callous selfishness. For all he knew his conduct might spell the difference between life and death for his passengers.”

The judge who jailed Johnson, of Middleton Road, Liverpool had described it as “one of the worst cases of dangerous driving that I have ever come across”. And the appeal judge Mr Justice Laws added: “This is a vivid illustration of the tragedies that drunken driving can cause.”

Refusing the appeal he concluded: “The judge was justified in regarding this case as at the very top of the sentencing regime.”