'Reckless' boy racer, from Pickering, North Yorkshire, jailed after smashing his car into a tree, splitting it in half

A “reckless” boy racer who sped through a country village at over 100mph and smashed into a tree, splitting it in half, has been jailed for nearly three years for the “catastrophic” incident which left his friend with horrific, life-changing injuries.

By Court Reporter
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 3:23 pm

Steven Cockerill, 22, from Pickering, ignored three warnings by his 20-year-old friend, who was in the front passenger seat of Cockerill's VW Golf, to slow down before an almighty crash which left debris, including car parts, scattered all over the road, York Crown Court heard.

His friend, who was named in court, was trapped in the vehicle while Cockerill began rummaging around in the glove box, apparently unconcerned about his mate’s plight, said prosecutor Andrea Parnham.

Police and an ambulance crew arrived to find a scene of “carnage” at the crash site near Ebberston.

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Steven Cockerill.

Cockerill’s friend had to be cut out of the vehicle by emergency services and was taken to hospital with horrific injuries including a punctured lung and a broken leg, kneecap and elbow which required surgery to fit metal screws and supports.

He spent three months in hospital and was unable to walk unaided.

A police officer described the scene as “catastrophic” and said he was amazed that anyone had survived the crash.

Cockerill, who was walking on the road, nursing only a minor cut to his face, told the officer he had no recollection of the crash.

He was arrested and charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving.

He ultimately admitted the offence and appeared for sentence today (Sep 29).

Ms Parnham said Cockerill and his friend were car enthusiasts and had driven from Pickering to the Scarborough seafront to meet up with two friends who were in an Isuzu vehicle.

They set off in convoy on the way back to Pickering and were travelling on the A170, just past Snainton, when Cockerill suddenly put his foot to the metal in the dark, in an area with numerous bends and a hill brow and barely any street lighting.

He overtook his friends in the Isuzu and accelerated so hard the rev counter was “in the red”.

“(His friend) asked him to slow down but he was ignored,” said Ms Parnham.

The VW was travelling at over 100mph, in the middle of the road, as it sped into Ebberston, which has a 40mph limit.

The vehicle was straddling both lanes as it approached a pedestrian island.

Cockerill swerved to miss the island as he approached a left-hand bend but lost control of the vehicle which smashed into an old oak tree on the road verge.

“It split the tree in two, causing some of the tree to fall into the carriageway,” said Ms Parnham.

“The engine block of the vehicle was shunted across both carriageways, resting on the opposite side of the road, 19 metres from the point of collision.

"The gear box and a wheel were ripped from the vehicle.”

The VW spun round and came to a rest on the road. As it did so, the friends in the other vehicle were approaching and the driver tried to brake but was unable to avoid a collision despite travelling within the speed limit.

The car crashed head-on into Cockerill’s “crushed” vehicle, whose speedometer was stuck on 75mph.

The driver, who was also named, said he saw a plume of smoke and a tree branch in the road ahead of him, but his sight was obscured by all the dust that had been thrown up just before the collision.

“He said he felt like he had hit a brick wall,” added Ms Parnham.

Cockerill’s friend was “pinned in his seat” by the engine but Cockerill “didn’t seem overly concerned about his friend”.

The victim had to have his chest drained and was left with reduced lung capacity.

He required extensive physiotherapy following surgery for multiple broken bones and needed to wear a metal brace to walk.

He had suffered from depression, anxiety and insomnia since the accident on July 19 last year and had to take nearly eight months off work, resulting in over £6,000 of lost earnings.

He was now a “completely different” man who was no longer outgoing and shunned social settings.

“He describes himself as physically weakened, ‘like an old man’,” added Ms Parnham.

Cockerill, who worked for his parents’ businesses, had a previous conviction for failing to provide a specimen for analysis after being arrested following a serious car crash in May 2018.

On that occasion he was injured and taken to hospital, where he refused to provide a sample.

He denied that offence but was convicted after trial and was banned from driving for 14 months.

David Camidge, mitigating, said Cockerill was a hard-working man but added: “In any view, this is a very serious matter.”

Judge Simon Hickey told Cockerill: “You were simply travelling too fast.

"(The victim), when he came to, feared he might lose his legs.

“He remembers your indifference to his plight.

"There’s an ongoing effect (on him) from your reckless behaviour.”

Cockerill was jailed for two years and 10 months and given a four-year driving ban.