Published: 20:41, 07 February 2019
| Updated: 20:43, 07 February 2019
A car passenger who put the lives of his girlfriend and three friends in danger when he grabbed the steering wheel, causing it to hit a tree and a wall, has been spared custody.
Cameron Hamblin had argued with his partner Niamh Cosham Elam before yanking the steering wheel of the Ford Fiesta at about 40mph.
The 20-year-old shop worker had unbuckled his seatbelt beforehand, but he and the four others escaped with minor injuries.
Hamblin, of Grange Road, Tunbridge Wells, admitted damaging property, being reckless as to whether lives were endangered.
His not guilty pleas to damaging property with intent to endanger life and four charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent were accepted.
Maidstone Crown Court heard while the friends were out in Tunbridge Wells on June 26 last year, Hamblin looked at Miss Cosham Elam’s phone and saw that a friend he had asked her to block had been unblocked.
They argued and it continued in the car. Hamblin, who was in the back, grabbed the steering wheel from his girlfriend in Langton Road.
He later declared his intention was to kill himself.
“Impulsively, you undid your seatbelt and grabbed the steering wheel and directed the car into a tree..." - Judge Charles Macdonald QC
Prosecutor Andrew Forsyth said the car had extensive front end impact damage and was written off.
Miss Cosham Elam suffered minor chest injuries from the airbag inflating. Hamblin and the other passengers, Harvey Harcombe, Oliver Macdonald and Michael Davison, were left with mainly bruises.
“It is a loss of control and potentially a very serious one,” said Mr Forsyth.
David Cohen, defending, said Hamblin, who had one previous conviction for common assault, had stopped using cannabis and now had his drinking under control.
He had bought his girlfriend another car for £800 and they were still together. She sat in court during the hearing on Thursday.
“He acted out of character,” said Mr Cohen. “He acted stupidly and dangerously in the heat of the moment. He doesn’t drive and relies on his girlfriend as a chauffeur.
“They all remain friends. They appear to have accepted this was a frightening one-off occurrence.”
Suspending nine months youth custody for 18 months, with 100 hours unpaid work, Judge Charles Macdonald QC said: “This is clearly a case of recklessness, not intent.
“Impulsively, you undid your seatbelt and grabbed the steering wheel and directed the car into a tree. The occupants, mercifully, only suffered minor injuries.”
But the judge added there was a lot of mitigation in Hamblin’s age, the offence being out of character, remorse and incite.
Hamblin was ordered to pay £250 prosecution costs.