Published: 12:34, 12 March 2019
| Updated: 16:02, 19 March 2019
A drugged up driver without a licence hurtled onto the pavement outside function rooms injuring eight people, a court heard.
Lee Rice was said to have looked “blank behind the eyes” after he mowed down victims, leaving two seriously hurt.
The 33-year-old cocaine addict had earlier hit over 150mph on the M2, shaking off chasing police cars. A police helicopter took up the pursuit before Rice caused mayhem outside the Royal Theatre Functions Rooms in Rochester.
A woman, who had been enjoying a night out at the venue, was knocked unconscious and friends feared she was dead. Adam Bunting suffered broken bones in his right leg.
In separate offences, Rice, of Hockenden Lane, Swanley, torched a caravan on a piece of land in Dartford in a revenge attack, putting horses in danger, and committed other offences.
He was jailed for a total of five years – two years and eight months for the Rochester incident and two years and four months consecutive for the Dartford offending.
Maidstone Crown Court was told police officers spotted Rice in a Jaguar on the M2 on September 15 last year and attempted to arrest him for the other offences committed on August 5.
They were unable to keep up and a helicopter took over. Rice, whose girlfriend was a passenger, drove on the hard shoulder to get past other vehicles before leaving the motorway and heading into Medway.
Prosecutor Henrietta Paget said the injuries were caused when Rice mounted the pavement at Star Hill to get around parked vehicles.
After crashing into victims, he tried to run off but was detained by witnesses, including an off-duty police officer.
One member of the public said afterwards: “It seems to me that Mr Rice was blank behind the eyes when stopped.”
Tests showed he had taken cocaine and was 10 times the legal limit for the drug.
“Those hit on the pavement had very little memory of what happened,” said Miss Paget.
A victim, who was outside smoking when she was struck, came round to find her clothes being cut off and being told not to move her head.
She was in pain and had blood in her mouth. A tooth that was missing was later found in her hair. “She was crying and in shock,” said Miss Paget.
She was taken to hospital and treated for a broken nose, a cut above her left eye and bruising. She needed extensive dental treatment.
She read out a victim statement in court, telling of the ongoing trauma she was suffering.
“On the night I thought this was an accident. Everything I am told makes me resentful..."
As Rice watched from the dock she said: “Most of the injuries were to my face. I walked with a limp. People would stare at me, strangers asking what happened to me.
“I was told it would take four to six months for my thumb to heal and there was an increased chance of arthritis in my hand.
“I am mostly worried about my teeth. I don’t know if I will keep my front tooth.
“Most of it is the mental impact this has had on me. I am really struggling with it. I am waiting for NHS counselling, because I can’t stop this going round my head.
“On the night I thought this was an accident. Everything I am told makes me resentful.
“My friend said I looked dead when I was unconscious on the pavement. I really struggle that I went out with friends and I end up lying on the pavement with my face not looking like it used to.
“At first I would start crying. Now, I feel nothing. Now, I feel people are just horrible in life. I can’t make Lee Rice change or be sorry for what he has done.”
Adam Bunting, who suffered fractures to his leg, told how a career in pest control had been set back by his injuries and said he had been caused financial hardship.
He said he was in constant pain and discomfort and could no longer play guitar in a band.
Reece Greene, who suffered muscular damage to his back, said when he saw his friend lying unconscious on the ground he thought she was dying.
“This was a prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of very bad driving,” said Miss Paget. “Drugs had been consumed. He was drunk but passed a roadside breath test.
“There are multiple victims. He had only a provisional licence and, therefore, no insurance. He has a long record for driving offences.
“One could imagine these offences causing much more serious injury. She is lucky not to have been killed.”
Rice, who has 21 previous convictions for 47 offences, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving, dangerous driving and having no insurance or licence.
The maximum sentence for causing serious injury by dangerous driving is five years imprisonment after a trial.
'"At first I would start crying. Now, I feel nothing. Now, I feel people are just horrible in life. I can’t make Lee Rice change or be sorry for what he has done"
In the other incident Rice became aggressive and threatening in an attempt to get his ex-girlfriend to go back to him.
He set fire to the caravan in Parsonage Lane, Dartford, belonging to Sarah Barnes and Patrick Martin after threatening to kill the horses there.
Rice denied arson, affray, another charge of dangerous driving and criminal damage, and was convicted by a jury. The maximum sentence for arson is five years.
Nicholas Jones, defending, said the father-of-two recognised he was lucky not to be facing far more serious charges in respect of the Rochester matter.
“He doesn’t intend to drive again,” he said. “He was effectively homeless at the time. He suffers from depression and anxiety.
“Just before Christmas he attempted to kill himself in custody. He has been on close monitoring for several months. That was his second suicide attempt.
“He has a drug problem. He has been using cocaine for about eight years. He would like to apologise for the hurt and pain he has caused.”
Recorder Judy Khan QC said Rice was guilty of a “sustained piece of highly dangerous driving”.
“Your actions have caused lasting health problems and pain and distress,” she told him. “You caused serious injuries. There were multiple victims.”
Rice was banned from driving for six years.
In the wake of the incident Kent Police referred itself the Independent Office for Police Complaints.
Spokesman Nick Hitchens confirmed six months on the investigation is drawing to a close.
It may be at least a month until findings are presented to the force.