A judge has got his hands tied over how to deal with a get-away driver who crashed into a tree following a robbery at a Coventry store, killing one of his accomplices.
Because of severe brain injuries suffered by driver Neil Docherty in the crash, he was unfit to take part in his own trial on charges of robbery and causing death by dangerous driving.
A jury at Warwick Crown Court found that Docherty (41) of Hardy Road, Radford, Coventry, ‘did the acts alleged,’ and the case was then adjourned for further reports to be prepared on him.
Because of the finding on his mental condition, Docherty, who Judge Andrew Lockhart QC said would otherwise be facing a sentence ‘in excess of ten years,’ cannot be jailed.
Instead, in law he could only be dealt with in one of three ways – a hospital order under the Mental Health Act, a supervision order or an absolute discharge.
But because the reports on Docherty have indicated that he does not have a treatable condition, which effectively rules out a hospital order, it leaves only the two community disposals.
And Judge Lockhart said: “What I have been told is that the probation service would be able to do virtually nothing with a man with a neurological condition which is virtually untreatable.
“The local authority would carry out an assessment, but could only do that if I made an order today.”
He told Docherty’s barrister Andrew Horsell: “You will know my concerns about this case. The maximum I can deal with it by at the moment is a two-year supervision order, and I have voiced my concerns about that.”
He pointed out that a psychiatric report indicated there were unlikely to be changes in the near future, commenting: “That does not give me confidence in the mid- to long-term.
“Before I make an order I want to know what can be done for him to be further monitored; so this man, who I consider to be dangerous if he’s well, is at least monitored in the community by someone.
“I do order the Social Services department to carry out an assessment to see if they can assist with supervision over the two-year period and thereafter.”
He adjourned the case for that to be done, and Docherty was granted bail.
During the trial last year prosecutor Ben Close said the case involved an armed robbery at the One Stop store in Birmingham Road, Allesley Village, on December 4, 2013, and its aftermath.
“At 20 past eight in the evening three men entered the premises, with at least one carrying a crowbar, and stole cash and a quantity of cigarettes.
“Thereafter, the get-away vehicle was observed by a number of other people relatively close to where the robbery took place before crashing into a tree.
“Tragically that crash killed one of the occupants, the front-seat passenger David Molloy, and the prosecution say Mr Docherty was the person who was driving, and that the crash was caused by him driving in a dangerous way.”
Describing the robbery, which was captured by CCTV cameras, Mr Close said that after the robbers entered the store, wearing hoods and with their faces covered, the two members of staff were ordered to get down on the floor.
The raiders then went behind the counter where one of them forced open a till and took £2-400 in cash, while Docherty and the third man stole a large quantity of cigarettes.
But at 8.25 their Peugeot 307 get-away car crashed into a tree in Brownhills Green Road, by the Waste Lane junction, killing Mr Molloy and seriously injuring Docherty and Keith Bailey.
Mr Close said the car had been seen heading along Coundon Wedge Drive, which has a 40mph limit, at excessive speed before turning into Brownhills Green Road, where it took a bend without braking and crashed into the tree.
Because the men in the car had been thrown around by the force of the impact, there was initially some confusion about who was where in the front.
But although his upper body was across on the passenger side, Docherty’s legs were on the driver’s side, said Mr Close.
And he pointed out the car had been sold to Docherty’s girlfriend about a month earlier, since when the seller had seen both her and Docherty driving it.
Support community journalism by making a contribution
The Coventry Observer's team of journalists provide a trusted source of news, sport, entertainment and events going on in your area and issues which matter to you - both via our free weekly print edition and daily updates on our website.
Every contribution, however big or small, you can make will help us continue to do that now and in the future.
Thanks for reading this and the Coventry Observer.