A man who caused the death of two teenage boys and left two others with life-changing disabilities after driving “like a lunatic” has been jailed for seven and a half years.
Thomas McMeekin, 23, was handed the lengthy sentence despite also being left severely disabled in the horror crash.
However, the families of the victime said they were “disappointed” with the jail term.
George Wharton and Rhys Baker, both aged 14, were killed after McMeekin lost control of his Peugeot 206 on Gelderd Road, Morley, and struck a tree.
A 15-year-old boy was left with brain injuries. His 14 year-old friend is know tetraplegic and will require lifetime care.
McMeekin, of Bruntcliffe Road, Morley, is now also tetraplegic after being thrown from the vehicle during the collision which took place on March 7 last year.
McMeekin pleaded guilty to two offences of causing death by dangerous driving and two of causing serious injury by dangerous driving at a hearing in July.
Sentencing was adjourned on that occasion in order to obtain information from the Prison Service to ensure appropriate facilities are available to care for McMeekin in custody.
Jailing McMeekin today, The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier, QC, said: “By your dangerous driving you took the lives of two children and you seriously injured two others and you caused serious injuries to yourself.
“Through your actions, five families have been irreparably damaged.
The judge added: “They (the victims) were unable to appreciate the risks that you ran as you diced with death on a daily basis.”
“I am satisfied that such regret as you have is very much focused on yourself rather than others.”
McMeekin had a history of bad driving, including driving with children in his car and showing off.
Unemployed McMeekin would often drive teenagers around in his car if they paid petrol money.
The fatal collision occurred after McMeekin had picked the teenagers up.
Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, described at the earlier hearing how a woman was driving her car along Gelderd Road when she saw McMeekin drive up at speed behind her shortly before the crash.
The prosecutor said: “She saw, to her horror, that he was not looking at the road at all. Instead he was talking to his front seat passenger.”
McMeekin saw the vehicle in front of him at the last moment and turned sharply to avoid a collision.
He then lost control of the car and collided with a tree as the car spun through 180 degrees.
Witnesses who stopped to help came across horrific scenes. Others described McMeekin as driving like an “idiot” and said his driving had been “aggressive.”
McMeekin had acquired the car five days before the incident after his mother financed the purchase.
One of the injured boys described after the crash how McMeekin “doesn’t follow road rules.”
Mr Sharp said: “He describes him as doing wheel-spins and handbrake turns on public roads, driving aggressively off from traffic lights and trying to reach 100mph before having to stop again.”
Three days before the incident he was seen driving in the car park of Birstall Showcase cinemas so dangerously that the vehicle lifted onto two wheels. Three other passengers were in the car at the time.
A day later he drove at excessive speed as he raced another vehicle, which left his female passenger distressed.
Two nights later, March 6, McMeekin had six passengers in his car at once as he drove them to a party.
Mr Sharp said: “A witness described him as ‘driving like a lunatic’. He was travelling down a single-carriageway road when he performed a hand-brake turn into the mouth of a junction where another witness was just about to cross.
“She was understandably upset. She assessed his behaviour as showing off but also said, presciently, ‘he’s going to kill someone driving like that.’”
“The defendant’s mother had got to hear about his driving behaviour and was threatening to take the car back from him.”
Mr Sharp read statements on behalf of relatives of the four victims in which they described the emotional turmoil they had suffered through McMeekin’s actions.
George Wharton’s mother, Sharon Hull, described how she often had to pass McMeekin’s home.
She said: “I have seen him sat at the front door in the sun. To pass where he lives every day is agony for me.”
Anna Mackenzie, for McMeekin, said her client had “profound regrets” at the way he behaved.
She said: “He will have to bear that responsibility for the rest of his life. His injuries will be a life-long reminder of his behaviour.”
After the hearing, Carolyn Heaton, who represented two of the families for law firm Irwin Mitchell, said after the sentencing: “Both families are relieved that Tom McMeekin, the driver of the vehicle who caused the crash, has pleaded guilty to causing death and serious injury by dangerous driving although they are disappointed with the sentence that he received today.
“They are obviously aware of the injuries that Mr McMeekin sustained but feel the sentence is low given the devastating impact his reckless driving had on the lives of four young boys and their families. Both families are still coming to terms with what has happened and it is something they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.”