Man jailed for causing agony for bride-to-be

Ricky Fitzgerald
Ricky Fitzgerald

A bride-to-be suffered a triple fracture after a man drove a petrol-powered remote control car ‘as a weapon’, a court heard.

Emily Patel had been exercising with a group of around eight or nine in St John’s Park, Burgess Hill, when Ricky Fitzgerald aimed the car at her at up to 30mph.

James Fitzgerald

James Fitzgerald

Now Fitzgerald, 40, has been jailed for two years for the incident on August 28, with an extra 21 months on top for an unrelated assault.

Sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Judge Roger Hetherington said the incident was ‘extraordinary’.

He said: “This was an extraordinary offence in that a group of people were participating in a fitness class in a park.

“And you decided that you would come and operate a remote-controlled car in the vicinity of where they were participating in their own fitness class.

“This went on for a protracted period of time.

“Throughout this time you were operating this car, it’s quite clear, so as to disrupt the class and to intimidate the participants.

“You intentionally drove that car in the direction of various people who were lawfully trying to have some recreation in the park.”

He added: “The car was driven at one of the members of the class, the speed high at about 30mph, that may have been an exaggeration but certainly a fast speed.

“It hit her in the leg, she tripped and fell over and sustained a serious injury, a triple fracture to her leg.”

The judge rejected mitigation that Fitzgerald was reckless, adding: “You intentionally drove that car in the direction of members of the class.”

But the judge said he accepted Fitzgerald, of Cissbury Road, Burgess Hill, did not intend to cause serious injury or any injury.

Mrs Patel (nee Johnson), then 21 and engaged to Sudi Patel, had been training with an Ultimate Outdoor Training class.

“She was some three weeks away from her own wedding,” the judge said of the victim.

“There was the most appalling disruption inevitably to that.

“She was able to carry through with it but only in the state of injury and with bandages and aids to assist her.

“She was self-employed, she has suffered financially from the effects of this incident.”

Speaking after the sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Mrs Patel said: “I had no idea of what sentence he may have been given, so two years is great.

“It’s definitely been a roller coaster of a year, but I’m happy that it’s finally come to an end.

“Unfortunately it will never repair the fact that he almost ruined my wedding day, but hopefully his sentence will punish him for that.”

Fitzgerald, who admitted GBH, has previous convictions for threats to kill, having a bladed article and affray in 2012 but had a five-year gap in offending, the court heard.

His brother James Fitzgerald, 28, also of Cissbury Road, Burgess Hill, was also jailed at the court hearing.

Both brothers were found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm after attacking a man at their home.

The court heard they brought down ‘kicks, stamps and punches’ on the victim.

James Fitzgerald was jailed for 21 months for the ABH, with an extra eight months for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

Judge Hetherington said both men suffered from mental health problems.