A 24-year-old Ross on Wye man has today (July 12) admitted falsely reporting his car stolen and setting it on fire after he crashed into a horse and rider near Newent - leaving the animal so badly injured that it had to be put down.
Alex Cole, 23, of Bartwood Lane, Pontshill, Ross, was to have stood jury trial at Gloucester Crown Court today on charges of dangerous driving, and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
But at the last minute, with a jury waiting to be sworn in, he admitted the perverting justice charge and offered a guilty plea to a less serious driving charge – one of driving carelessly rather than dangerously.
His pleas were accepted by Lucy Taylor, prosecuting, and he was unconditionally bailed for a pre-sentence report to be prepared.
The judge, Recorder Don Chidgey, told him to return to court on August 16 and warned him that the perverting justice offence is a serious one and all sentencing options – including prison – would be considered.
The charges resulted from a crash on March 7 last year at Cliffords Mesne, near Newent when Cole's Vauxhall Astra was in collision with the horse and its 19 year old female rider, who needed medical treatment after being thrown from the animal.
The horse later had to be put down.
Recorder Chidgey noted today that the rider has now 'withdrawn her co-operation' with the prosecution and the Crown no longer have her available as a witness.
However, he said, the prosecution do have the evidence of Cole's admissions made to the police when he was interviewed.
The charges which Cole had denied at an earlier hearing were put to him again today at the request of his defence and he pleaded guilty to intending to pervert the course of public justice by doing a series of acts: setting a vehicle on fire and and falsely reporting it as stolen to the police following a road traffic collision.
To the charge of driving dangerously in a Vauxhall Astra at Cliffords Mesne on March 7 2022 he pleaded not guilty but guilty to the lesser alternative of driving without due care and attention.
At the earlier hearing the defence had pointed out that Cole had 'corrected the record' within a week by telling police he was the driver and withdrawing his claim that the car had been stolen.
Patrick Kelly, defending, asked Recorder Chidgey at today's hearing to give Cole full credit for his guilty plea on the driving charge.
He said Cole was fully aware that he would get reduced credit on the perverting the course of justice because he had not admitted it an earlier stage.
Bailing Cole, the Recorder told him "You will receive credit for your guilty pleas when you are sentenced. I am adjourning sentence until August 16, that's just over a month.
"Between now and then the probation service will contact you and you will have an interview with a probation officer where they will talk to you about what happened.
"They will do a report about you which the judge will see before they sentence you.
"It probably won't be me who sentences you. It will be another judge."The judge will have to consider all the facts of the case and consider what to do.
"Perverting the course of justice is a serious offence so all options are open in relation to sentencing.
"Co-operate with the probation service. If you are open with the probation officer it will be a much more helpful report than if you are not open."