100mph DRINK DRIVER FREED; Motorist tailgated others before crash.
Byline: GARRY WILLEY
A MANIAC drink driver who "tailgated" motorists at 100mph before causing an A1 crash has kept his freedom.
Paul Hogg was three times over the booze limit as he roared south down the busy road towards Tyneside in his silver works van.
The terror drive covered almost 50 miles from when he was first spotted tailgating near Belford in Northumberland until he crashed near Gosforth.
He sped up behind other drivers so close they could not even read his number plate.
Hogg, a highly-qualified test engineer, weaved from side to side looking for a chance to over or undertake.
And moments after one driver got ready to hit his hazard lights - fearing a crash was inevitable - the 46-yearold lost control.
His Fiat cargo van hit the back of a Peugeot he had been tailing by only 80cm, sending both vehicles spinning into the near side ditch.
The collision left the Peugeot passenger and Hogg himself injured. But despite facing a maximum two years in jail, he left the dock with a suspended sentence after admitting dangerous driving and excess alcohol.
Mr Recorder Cox, who warned Hogg could "easily" have killed, told him: "I take into account that you have pleaded guilty, that you have lost your employment and your hitherto good driving record.
"I have by a whisker decided it is possible to punish you in the community and to demonstrate to the public that those who behave like this will face punishment."
Hogg, of Eglington Street, Sunderland, was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
He was also banned for two years, put on supervision and a drinkimpaired driving programme, given a six-month curfew, and ordered to carry out 200 hours' unpaid community work.
"The requirements are intended to help you, to punish you, and to protect the public from any possibility of a recurrence of this sort of behaviour," Recorder Bryan Cox QC said.
The Peugeot passenger was left needing a course of physiotherapy and powerful painkillers after the afternoon crash on January 25.
Hogg was taken to Newcastle General Hospital and only able to be quizzed by police a month later. A test taken at hospital showed a blood alcohol level three times the limit.
He first claimed he had been driving normally and that others were to blame for the accident.
Robert Spragg, defending, told the court: "He has struggled to accept he could have behaved in this manner at all.
"It is difficulty to understand. It was completely out of character."
Mr Spragg said Hogg had suffered depression, began drinking heavily, and even tried to take his own life by overdose in May last year following the collapse of his 10-year marriage.
"The only explanation he can seriously come up with is that he must have drank far too much the night before this incident," he told the court.
Road safety campaigners reacted angrily to the ruling.
Jo Stagg, press officer for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: "This is an appalling example of persistent bad driving.
"He is lucky to be alive and not in jail, and not to have the deaths of innocent people on his conscience."