Three years for drink driver who left toddler paralysed for life

Daniel Thrower. Below: JJ Michalowski with father Igor.  Pictures: Ross Parry Agency

Daniel Thrower. Below: JJ Michalowski with father Igor. Pictures: Ross Parry Agency

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A DRINK driver has been jailed for three years after causing a car crash which left a three year old boy paralysed for life from the chest down.

Daniel Thrower, 34, left JJ Michalowski with horrifying injuries in a smash which happened just hours after the child had walked upstairs for the first time.

JJ’s family, including parents Katy and Igor, who had been driving the vehicle at the time, were at Leeds Crown Court today, to hear Thrower will serve just 18 months for the crime.

The court heard the toddler’s injuries were so severe that he will never walk again, and he requires a ventilator to help him breathe while sleeping.

During the hearing, a victim impact statement written by JJ’s family was read out, in which they revealed they have not been able to give him a proper cuddle since the incident on March 8 this year.

It read: “There was no need for any of this to happen, but we’re now left to pick up the pieces of the actions of someone who has devastated our family.

“JJ should have been able to run around and have a normal happy childhood, but this has been cruelly taken away.

“He had only just walked upstairs. He may never be able to walk or appreciate what it was like.

“He’s still fighting but he’s not the same and will not be able to do what his sisters do.

“He’s been robbed of being a happy and healthy little boy.”

The court heard that on the evening of the incident, father-of-two Thrower drank around four cans of beer before taking his girlfriend’s car from the house they share, despite having no valid insurance and a revoked licence following a drink-drive incident six years ago.

While driving the wrong way down the A628 bypass in Hemsworth, near Wakefield, he encountered Mr Michalowski, 30, who was behind the wheel of a Peugeot 407, with his children JJ, Llacia and Leah as passengers.

Their mother Katy, 27, had been asked to swap her shift at the nursing home where she worked, so her husband dropped her off, but because of the time they had to take her, their three children went with them.

“The children were in their pyjamas and JJ slept on the outward journey,” said Michael Smith, prosecuting.

“She has been dropped off at work just before 10pm.

“Mr Michalowski joined the A628 travelling just under 60mph.”

It was then that Thrower began to drive towards them, forcing Mr Michalowski to swerve to the side of the road.

“There were no other oncoming vehicles and no reason why the vehicle was in the wrong lane,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Michalowki told police that ‘it felt like everything exploded, the airbags went off and there was a smell of battery acid and fuel everywhere’.

The court heard Mr Michalowski managed to force his door open and get the two girls out of the vehicle before going back for JJ, who ‘tried to say daddy but his cries were strange and he was then sick’.

Mr Smith said: “Although all the family suffered some injuries, the greatest injuries were suffered by JJ.

“There were severe injuries to his spinal cord. In essence he had been paralysed from the trunk down.”

Evidence from a doctor’s report read out to the court said: “It’s highly unlikely, in reality almost impossible, that he will walk again in the future.

“He will require a wheelchair for many activities in his daily life.”

The court heard that Thrower, from Doncaster, was also taken to hospital following the crash, but was “uncooperative with hospital staff” and had to be handcuffed to a bed.

He had been taking medication for depression following the breakdown of an 18-year relationship.

Mr Smith said staff at the hospital reported him to be “unaffected and unphased by the gravity of the situation”.

Richard Davies, defending, told the court that Thrower had previously taken a car without the owners’ consent in 1999 and had his licence revoked in 2008 for driving with excess alcohol.

He also said Thrower had been taking medication for depression following the relationship breakdown, and had been offered a new job the day before the crash.

Jailing Thrower for three years for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: “This was no momentary piece of bad driving.

“You decided to drive even though you knew you had no permission, no insurance, no driving licence, and you must have known you were in no fit condition to get behind the wheel of a motor car.

“Unhappily, JJ was strapped into the car seat in the back and suffered severe spinal injuries.

“At this time he had just started to walk. He’s now paralysed from the trunk down and there’s been no detected volume of movement in his legs.

“The sentence I impose upon you is not intended to be a measure of the devastation and misery you have imposed upon his family.”

Following the hearing, JJ’s family, of South Elmsall, spoke of their ordeal.

Mr Michalowski said: “I don’t think it’s ever going to be enough of a sentence for what he’s done. The horrors just won’t go away.

“We want to focus on JJ’s future and getting him better and getting as much out of him as we can, while keeping him happy.

“The roads at least will be a lot safer for the next 18 months.”

JJ’s grandmother, Lesley Liddle, said: “We hate him. I hope everyone knows him for the scumbag he is.

“He made a conscious decision to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle when he had been drinking.”

And his auntie, Lynne Clifford, said: “He should never be given his licence back.

“The laws don’t protect innocent people. The laws need to be changed.”

Thrower was also disqualified from driving for three years, after which he must pass an advanced driving course before he can re-apply for a driving licence.

JJ’s family are now aiming to raise money to buy specialist equipment, including a joystick-controlled wheelchair, to give him back some independence.

Anyone wishing to donate to JJ can visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Help-Bring-JJ-Home/1449445605329901

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