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Driver keeps licence despite abandoning crashed car

A young driver who ran off after his car smashed into a wall was allowed to keep his licence after turning up to court in a suit and tie. Magistrates told Ricardo Salerno, of Blackburn Road, Greenhill, they were impressed by his outfit, and his job on tug boats at Woolwich.

The 20 year old led police on an hour-long chase through gardens and over walls and fences after losing control of his VW Golf in Avenue Road on June 18. At Canterbury Magistrates Court on Friday he admitted failing to stop after the crash, blaming shock and trauma for his actions.

Prosecuting, Neil Sweeney said it happened at about 2.15am and a witness, woken by the sound of the crash, saw a male and two females leaving the scene. The male, identified as Salerno, then returned to the car, took the keys from the ignition and made off again.

Police traced him as the registered keeper and went to his parents’ house, where he lives, but he was not there. Officers called his mobile phone from the house but he refused to reveal his location. Mr Sweeney said:

At 4.20am officers on patrol at Herne Bay seafront saw a man and recognised his photo from the family home. They ran after him and called for him to stop but he evaded police, climbing over walls and gardens to get away. He was eventually found at 5.15am in an outbuilding of an unoccupied property in Beach Street.

Salerno told police he had been in Canterbury with two female friends and they had taken a taxi back to the Bay after finding the nightclubs were shut. The girls got out at his home but were then stranded and pleaded with him to take them home. Salerno initially refused because he had drunk two rum and cokes and was worried he would be over the limit. Eventually he relented, but on the journey he lost control of the car, hit a kerb then struck a wall.

Patrick Cuffe, for Salerno, said suspicion he was over the drink drive limit were unfounded as breath and blood tests showed he was in the clear. He told magistrates his client had never been in any sort of trouble and was studying for his yachtmaster certificate and boatmaster licence. He said:

He is a young man who is making something of his life. He is generally and absolutely remorseful and still in distress about this situation. If he loses his licence he will be dismissed. He was shocked, he was in trauma, he was concerned, he did telephone his parents shortly afterwards and was notified the police were there. He realises he has been very foolish and through me he apologises to the court. He is genuinely contrite and remorseful.

Mr Cuffe said his client had returned to the car but found a crowd of people taking photos of it on their phones, and some inside the car taking his possessions including sunglasses and CDs. Magistrates told Salerno he had “a good job with a good future”, adding:

I bet even now you can’t tell me why you ran away. I bet you beat yourself up about it every day. We are impressed with your work record and we are impressed you came with a suit and tie.

Seven points will be added to Salerno’s licence and he must pay a £450 fine, £45 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

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