Hit-and run-driver given jail term after crashing into female jogger

Poulouse Mathai leaving court.
Poulouse Mathai leaving court.

A hit and run driver who left a female jogger “lying in a heap in the hedge” has been jailed for eight months.

Jailing Poulouse Mathai (58) at Newtownards Magistrates Court and banning him from driving for three years, District Judge Mark Hamill heavily criticised both the defendant for leaving his victim who “could have been dying” and the PPS for not referring the case to the Crown Court.

The maximum for causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving is five years in the crown court as opposed to six months in a magistrates.

“It’s just pure luck that she wasn’t killed and it is outrageous that this case proceeded in the magistrates court.”

At an earlier hearing Mathai, from the Killaughey Road in Donaghadee, pleaded guilty to causing Emma McCleery grievous bodily injury by careless driving, failing to detail and failing to remain “knowing an injury had been caused to another person” on 16 October last year.

The court heard Mrs McCleery (45) had been wearing fluorescent clothing as she was jogging along the High Bangor Road in Donaghadee at around 8am when Mathai’s car struck her. She was left “lying in a heap in the hedge” having sustained a broken leg and dislocated foot. A passing driver and his daughter spotted her and raised the alarm.

Around half an hour later, Mathai himself called the police to tell them what had happened.

Defence barrister Chris Holmes said Mathai’s behaviour in the immediate aftermath of the impact was shameful but he added that since then, Mathai had expressed genuine remorse and shame.

The lawyer said that had Mathai not handed himself into police “there’s a chance that he would never have been discovered” as no-one else had witnessed the accident and revealed that as Mrs McCleery lay in hospital, his wife who is a nurse “basically kept a vigil on this lady”.

“He is devastated, his family are devastated and his wife is mortified that a family member could be responsible, mortified and ashamed,” said Mr Holmes.

Judge Hamill said Mathai would be sent to jail. “It is conceivable that if he had stopped at the scene and behaved properly that he would have escaped custody. It is inconceivable that having behaved as outrageously as he did, leaving her lying on the road and knowing that he hit her and then drove on, that means that there is no chance of him escaping custody.”

Judge Hamill said he had to give Mathai credit for pleading guilty and for having a clear record and imposed a four-month term for causing GBI by careless driving. He imposed another four months’ custody for failing to remain ordered them to be served consecutively.

Speaking outside the court, Mrs McCleery and her husband Peter said they were “just glad it’s over and that we have some closure”.

She described how she had to undergo two operations where surgeons had to insert a metal plate and two screws into her foot and leg as well, spent three months in a full cast and only began walking again in the New Year, forcing the couple to close their Comber restaurant over Christmas period.

“I’m just lucky to be here and we’re just glad it’s all over,” she added.

Half an hour later, Judge Hamill released Mathai on his own bail of £500 pending an appeal of his jail term.