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David Harris avoids jail after 'bonnet surfing' tragedy left best friend with life-changing head injuries

By Paul Hooper

A teenager who allowed his best friend to “bonnet surf” on his Peugeot has escaped a custodial sentence for the tragedy which followed.

Jack Talbot has now been left with life-changing head injuries after falling from the car in Sainsbury’s car park in Chestfield.

David Harris, 18, could have faced up to five years in a Young Offender's Institute after admitting causing the injuries by his dangerous driving.

The incident happened at Sainsbury's in Chestfield
The incident happened at Sainsbury's in Chestfield

The teenager wept in the dock at Canterbury Crown Court after a judge told him that “after much soul-searching” he had decided to suspend the custodial sentence.

But Judge Simon James added that he understood that there might be some who felt the sentence “insulting or derisory”.

And he warned youngsters to “stop, pause and think” before taking part in the popular pastime of “surfing” on car bonnets.

Prosecutor Bridget Todd told how in April this year, Mr Talbot, 19, Harris and other friends were laughing and talking in their cars in the supermarket car park.

They then decided to go to McDonald's Restaurant, but as Harris set off, Mr Talbot “thought it would be funny” to get on the bonnet, holding on by gripping the windows which were open.

Judge Simon James
Judge Simon James

Harris, of The Poplars, Hersden, later told police he asked his best friend to get off but he wouldn’t and Harris began driving around the car park at “between 10 to 11 mph”.

Ms Todd said as he turned a corner and applied the brake, Mr Talbot lost grip with his right-hand, landed on his feet and stumbled backwards until he fell over, banging his head on the ground.

As Harris, their friends and two passers-by ran to his aid, they discovered the teenager lying unconscious on the ground. He was taken to King’s College Hospital in London.

The court heard that doctors fear his brain injury means he may never be able to live an independent life.

And as a result, the families of the “life-long” friends have been “ripped apart” by the catastrophic consequences of the accident.

Natasha Spreadborough, for Harris, told the judge: “He wishes he could exchange places with his friend and he has shown nothing but genuine remorse from the night this happened.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

“He will bitterly regret this for the rest of his life and he desperately wants to meet his friend and try to repair the friendship they once held so deep.”

Ms Spreadborough added that “there would be little gained” by sending a young man into immediate custody.

The judge gave Harris a 14 month jail sentence suspended for two years, banned him from driving for three years and ordered him to do 250 hours of unpaid work for the community.

The teenager will also have to remain indoors from between 9pm and 6am for the next six months for “his ill-judged stupidity”.

Judge James said he accepted Harris was genuinely remorseful and added that sending him into immediate custody would be “unlikely” to deter others from “bonnet surfing”.

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