Drink driver faces imprisonment

PETER Whalley, the Felixstowe businessman who was more than twice the drink-drive limit when his car ploughed into a teenage girl, pinning her against a wall, has been warned that he could be jailed when he is sentenced next month.

PETER Whalley, the Felixstowe businessman who was more than twice the drink-drive limit when his car ploughed into a teenage girl, pinning her against a wall, has been warned that he could be jailed when he is sentenced next month.

A jury at Ipswich Crown Court took two hours yesterday to find Whalley, 35, guilty of dangerous driving. He had denied the charge.

Adjourning sentence until the middle of October for a pre-sentence report, Recorder Neil Garnham QC told Whalley, "I would make it clear that imprisonment is a very real possibility in the light of what has happened."

Whalley, of Princes Gardens, Felixstowe, admitted drink-driving on the night of the accident in December last year and Recorder Garnham imposed an interim driving ban on him.

During the trial the court heard that Whalley who owns Bonds wine bar and the Old Millars restaurant in Felixstowe had been at work on the day of the accident.

He told the court that he had drunk four pints of cider and one pint of lager with a lemonade top on an empty stomach.

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During the evening the restaurant had run out of change and Whalley had decided to drive home to get some. He said that at the time he had felt fit to drive but in hindsight realised he shouldn't have done so.

He told the court that as he drove along Garrison Lane he saw something flash across the road in front of him causing him to veer to the left.

Immediately after the accident he had heard Miss Kelcher screaming and crying and had tried to pull his car away from her.

He broke down in tears as he described the nightmares he had suffered since the accident and the effect it had on his life.

He said although the pain he had suffered was nothing compared to what Miss Kelcher and her family had gone through, he had been unable to work for several months after the accident.

He said he had been left with no self-confidence and couldn't look at people straight in the eye."I felt guilty for the pain I had caused," he said.

He said that every time he closed his eyes to go to sleep he could picture what had happened.

Five character references were read to the court and two of Whalley's friends gave evidence in court about his character. They all described him as an honest, trustworthy, reliable and hardworking family man who went out of his way to help other people.

AFTER the jury's verdict yesterday the parents of 17-year-olf Vicky Kelcher, who was seriously injured in the accident, paid tribute to their daughter's courage and spoke of their relief at the jury's verdict.

Wendy and David Kelcher, of Chaucer Road, Felixstowe had been present at court with their daughter during the two-day trial and said it was a mark of her strong character that she wanted to be in court to hear the evidence.

"If she didn't have such a strong character she wouldn't be here now. She did nearly die," said Mrs Kelcher. She said that she was pleased with the jury's verdict and pleased that Whalley had been banned from driving.

Vicky had been walking home along Garrison Lane, Felixstowe on December 8 last year with her boyfriend Ty Freer when she was hit by Whalley's X registration Mercedes and pinned against a wall.

She suffered a crushed pelvis and a broken leg and underwent life-saving surgery on the night of the accident.

She was transferred to Norwich hospital where she spent ten days before coming back to Ipswich Hospital. During the fourteen weeks she was in hospital she underwent five operations and spent thirteen weeks in a frame supporting her pelvis.

Vicky has been left with a two-inch scar on her face, a permanently tilted pelvis and a permanent graft on her leg. "The scar is very visible and looks like a shark bite," said Mrs Kelcher.

Vicky has also been left with one leg an inch longer than the other. "She has now come to terms with what happened and knows she has to live with it. She wants to get on with her life," added her mother.

Vicky had only been going out with her boyfriend Ty a few weeks before the accident and is still with him. "It has been very hard for him as he saw Vicky's head slump down at the scene of the accident and thought she was dead," said Mrs Kelcher.

The accident also meant that Vicky, a former Deben High School pupil, was forced to miss a term of her childcare course at the Suffolk College.

She managed to keep up with her coursework while she was in hospital and did well in her end of year exams. She has now returned for the second year of her course and hopes eventually to work as a nursery assistant.

She is also looking forward to being a bridesmaid at her cousin's wedding in October. "She asked me to be a bridesmaid only a few days before the accident. I was really worried after the accident as my looks mean a lot to me but I am really looking forward to the wedding now," said Vicky.

She said it had been important for her to go to court to see Whalley as this was the first time she had come face to face with him.

She is still attending regular physiotherapy and hydrotherapy sessions and has had to give up her part-time job because she finds it difficult to be on her feet for too long.