A hit-and-run driver who jumped a red light "at speed" in his Audi A4 — colliding with a schoolgirl cycling across the junction on her way home — before fleeing the scene and abandoning his car without helping the injured child, has avoided jail.
Layla Shepard was 10 at the time of the collision which happened at around 6.49pm on Saturday 16 October 2021 on the Wigan Road in Deane, Greater Manchester, and was left with a fractured cheekbone, a broken nose, as well as an injury to her leg that needed surgery.
The girl's statement said the incident has left her "overwhelmed" and diagnosed with PTSD. She has not been able to ride her bike since the collision and "regularly" suffers flashbacks that "keep me up at night".
At Bolton Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by careless driving and failing to stop after an incident, Farhan Musaji was sentenced to a 12-month community order and must complete 200 hours of unpaid work, ordered to pay £900 compensation to his victim, a £400 fine and £300 in costs. The 26-year-old is also banned from driving for a year.
The offence of causing serious injury by careless driving was introduced in June 2022, in response to a government consultation on driving offences and penalties launched in 2016. At a crown court, as in this case, the conviction has a maximum penalty of two years in prison, while at a magistrates' court the maximum sentence is one year.
A witness account was heard in court, Mr Downey explaining how he had emerged from a chip shop on the parade of shops next to where the hit-and-run occurred, when the 10-year-old "flew in the air before landing a short distance down the road".
Anna Bond, prosecuting, said: "She arrived at the puffin crossing and started the ride over to the other side of junction.
"Mr Downey had just emerged from a chip shop nearby and went to the traffic lights on the other side of the crossing. He saw the defendant's car come through the red lights at speed and hit Layla off her bike.
"Layla hit the windscreen of the car and flew in the air before landing a short distance down the road going towards Wigan town centre. Instead of stopping, the defendant drove on and abandoned the car a short time after. The police later discovered there was no registration plate on the car.
"As a result of the collision, Layla was left with significant swelling and a fracture to her knee, which required a brace. She was later discharged from hospital on October 22.
"Greater Manchester Police received a radio transmission about the collision and attended the defendant's address. The defendant rang his father to tell him about the collision and he then confirmed this to the officers when they arrived. However, the defendant was not present at the address at that time.
"On October 17, the defendant and his father attended Bolton police station for interview. He later returned on October 20 with his solicitor."
The judge, Elliot Knopf, said Musaji had "ran off" rather than "turning back and seeking to provide assistance and comfort to the girl with whom you had collided and who had been injured significantly by your actions".
Calling his actions "absolutely disgraceful", the judge then accepted that the defendant feels "genuine remorse" and is a "hard-working young man" and people "speak highly of your ability and honesty", sparing him jail.
Musaji had one previous caution for cannabis possession in 2022 and in his defence Peter Malone said he could "not stress this enough" how much remorse his client feels "and his regret for coming before you today".
"This whole case is unfortunate, and he realises he is wholly to blame for it," Malone said. "He just did not see that individual when he was driving. What happened next was sheer panic, and he did drive off and went home to his father where they both contacted the police.
"There has been no repetition of this kind of behaviour since, he has kept out of trouble. He has not driven since the incident and now relies on public transport to get to the pharmacy where he works. He is a pharmacy technician, meaning he assists the lead pharmacist to gather medication and discusses medication with customers.
"Since he was 16 he has been working his way up with this pharmacy in Bolton. He sends his sincerest apology to Layla and her family and hopes she can forgive him."
Musaji had been charged with causing injury by dangerous driving but the charge was changed to careless driving. He faced up to two years in prison, but was spared a custodial sentence.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.