A FAMILY whose son was left fighting for his life after a collision with a 74-year-old driver who was over the drug drive limit are calling for tougher sentences after he was fined just £120.

George Pennick was more than four times over the drug-drive limit for benzoylecgonine, a by-product of cocaine, when he was driving in Stockton last July and was in a collision with a 13-year-old cyclist.

The boy suffered a serious brain injury, fractured ribs, lung contusions, fractured pubic bone, splenic lacerations, neck injury and significant damage to his left leg.

Pennick pleaded guilty to driving while above the drug-drive limit when he appeared at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

The 74-year-old, of Cedar Court, Stockton, was given a 12-month driving ban and fined £120, and will pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £32.

Speaking after the court hearing, the family of the boy, who did not want to be identified, said: “Being four times over the legal limit to drive under the influence of drugs should be regarded as an extremely serious offence, but the sentence in this case seems very lenient indeed.

“We understand that this is the law as it stands, but we strongly believe this should change to act as a deterrent so no-one else ever thinks it is acceptable to get behind the wheel having consumed drugs.

"We are deeply saddened at the very poor choices of the driver of the car which hit our son, the consequences of which have had an indescribable impact on our family and will do so for years ahead as our son bravely continues with his recover.

“Having seen our son in hospital, lying gravely injured and being warned he may not pull through, is a trauma which will be with us forever.

"We consider ourselves blessed every single day that he survived, and are so eternally grateful to the wonderful medical staff who saved his life, including an off-duty nurse and doctor who happened to be on the scene and whose role was crucial in ensuring he is still with us today.

"His road to recovery will be long and very difficult, but he has a loving family around him to support him every step of the way.”

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was "no evidence" that the defendant's driving was at fault and added two witnesses had seen the boy ride his bike into the path of Pennick's car, despite nearby traffic lights showing a green light to road users.

A CPS spokesperson said: "When deciding what charges to bring in any criminal case, the decisions of our lawyers are taken in strict adherence to the code for crown prosecutors. This means that, to charge someone with a criminal offence, they must first be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest.

“In this case, two independent witnesses stated that they had seen the injured party ride his bike into the path of George Pennick’s car, despite nearby traffic lights showing a green light to road users.

“There was no evidence to suggest that the manner of the defendant’s driving was at fault but, as is standard procedure for all drivers involved in road accidents, he was subsequently subjected to a blood test.

"The results of this test showed that the defendant was driving while above the specified limit for the controlled substance Benzoylecgonine, a breakdown chemical indicating previous cocaine use, to which the defendant pleaded guilty at first hearing."

The incident happened on July 24 last year, at the A1027 ring road after the boy went for a ride on his bike after being inspired by the Tour de France.

He was taken by Great North Air Ambulance to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, as medics battled to save his life.

His family say he is facing a long road to recovery and thanked an off-duty nurse and doctor who were on the scene and helped to keep him alive.

Kate Nicklin, neurotrauma associate at Sintons, is supporting the family in securing a rehabilitation package to assist with his recovery and is appealing for witnesses to the incident to come forward with any information that could help.

She said: "This has been a hugely traumatic event for this young boy and his whole family, and the impact it has had on them has truly been life-changing."

Witnesses can contact Sintons on 0191 226 7929 or kate.nicklin@sintons.co.uk.