Driver sent 29 texts before horror crash
A 23-year-old serial traffic offender exchanged 29 text messages with his girlfriend while driving on the Hume Highway in Sydney's southwest before causing a catastrophic crash which resulted in a police officer having his leg amputated.
Following last year's collision, which was life changing for the police officer, Jakob Thornton told police he drove while "pretty well" not looking at the road by "assuming" where the sides and middle of roads were, which he was good at.
Thornton engaged in the texting conversation with his girlfriend over a 35 minute drive from his workplace in southern Sydney to his home in western Sydney, the NSW District Court heard.
His journey ended when Thornton rammed into the two police officers who were setting up a random breath testing station at Leumeah, in southwest Sydney, on the evening of February 16, 2018.
The collision broke Senior Constable Matthew Foley's leg and critically damaged the right leg of Senior Constable Jonathan "Jono" Wright, leaving him so badly injured the father-of-three had to have 15cm of it amputated below his knee.
The two injured officers, their wives and a large contingent of police and family supporters were in the courtroom for the sentencing by District Court Judge Anthony Townsden.
Thornton caused the collision at around 8.20pm on February 16, 2018 when he ploughed into Senior Constables Wright and Foley, who were setting up a random breath testing station on Campbelltown Road, crushing them between his Fiat van and their police vehicle.
Surgeons were forced to amputate Snr Constable Wright's right leg.
Thornton later claimed in a police interview that he was only texting for about 10 to 20 seconds, however the court heard phone records revealed the volume of texts between himself and his girlfriend between 7.45pm and 8.20pm right up until the crash.
He told police afterwards that he was moderating his driving while not looking at the road, by "assuming", the court heard.
"I assume pretty well," he said in the wake of the collision, saying he had manoeuvred a turn without watching the road and had done it well because, "I didn't hit the left side and I didn't hit the middle lines."
But prosecutors said Thornton had displayed "blatant abandonment of responsibility" by texting on his phone and not looking at the road for "300 metres before" the crash.
Prosecutors told the court Thornton's "moral culpability was high" and he had "completely abandoned responsibility … deliberately using his mobile phone as he approached" the two policeman on RBT duty on the road.
The court heard that "many others (could have been) at risk" because of Thornton's extensive texting over a long journey driving on major roads.
Thornton, who has previously lost his provisional driving licence four times and has been convicted and fined for using a mobile phone while driving, was taken into custody.
He was imprisoned last year for two months after the crash, but against prosecution submissions was granted bail last April after his lawyer argued he was suffering from trauma behind bars.
Last August, Thornton pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.
Court documents showed Thornton couldn't remember if he applied the brakes before hitting officers Wright and Foley at 60km/h.
NSW Police raised $175,000 to help the two police officers' recovery.
Last year, Senior Constable Wright and his wife Lisa thanked the community for ongoing support, as well as meals, groceries and financial donations to them.
Two letters of apology by Thornton, one written while he was allegedly suffering PTSD in custody, and an apology written by his mother Katja that was sent to the two officers were tendered to the court.
Lisa Wright breathed in deeply and her husband put his arm around her as victim's impact statements by the two officer victims were tendered.