A dangerous driver married the mother of a five-year-old boy he killed in a horror crash.
Dean Collins, of St Mellons, Cardiff, was convicted by a jury of causing the death of Joseph Smith by driving dangerously. He was also found guilty of a further four charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
Laura had been sat in the front passenger seat of the car at the time of the accident and suffered bleeding in her brain. Part of a tooth was also found in her windpipe.
During his trial Collins, 23, said the couple had “kept each other sane” as they grieved for little Joseph following the tragedy.
Collins had to be let out of hospital to go to Joseph’s funeral, and said he saw the lad as his own son.
During Collins’ trial Cardiff Crown Court heard that Joseph had not been strapped into a booster seat at the time of the accident. He broke his neck because his seat belt was in the wrong place.
Collins had told the court Joseph did not like using a booster seat and he did not think it was necessary.
He said: “I genuinely thought he was tall enough.”
The court was told Joseph was actually six inches too short to be sat without a booster seat.
Collins, who left school aged 15 to become a decorator, told Cardiff Crown Court he viewed five-year-old Joseph – as his own son.
He had been in a relationship with Ms Bright for six years, and said the pair supported each other in the months afterwards.
Asked about his relationship with Ms Bright following Joseph’s death, he said: “It has been obviously hard but we are very close – we have always been very close.
“We have been keeping each other sane, keeping each other together.”
Ms Bright was in the front passenger seat and her son in the rear when the fateful collision happened as they drove Joseph to football practice on the morning of September 13, 2015.
Collins was driving a borrowed Ford Focus with Joseph, Laura, her mother Michelle Holmes and his two-year-old daughter when the crash took place on the A48 Western Avenue.
He crossed the central reservation and ploughed into another car.
A jury at Cardiff Crown Court heard evidence of the car “rushing”, “veering” and rocking back and forth with one witness saying she saw Collins lifting a phone to his ear.
Joseph, who was sitting in the back, was killed.
A pathologist confirmed Joseph’s medical cause of death was blunt injury to the neck, caused by his seat belt sitting in the wrong place as he was not in a booster seat.
Prosecutors previously told the court Collins had recently passed his test and had taken cocaine before the collision.
Collins admitted taking cocaine the day before the crash or the day before that but told the court he had not “topped up” with the drug on the morning of the collision, adding: “I would never put my kids in danger.”
The court heard Collins was unaware of the effect cocaine would have on his driving.
He told prosecutor Janet McDonald: “I naively didn’t realise how it would affect me the next day.”
Earlier in the hearing, Ms McDonald questioned Collins on whether he was “arrogant” by not wearing a seat belt and accused him of driving like a “boy racer”.
Collins had denied causing serious injury to his partner Laura Bright, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, and her mother Michelle Holmes, who was on the back seat next to Joseph.
Ms Bright suffered serious injuries and spent 23 days in hospital after the crash. The court heard she suffered memory loss, following bleeding in her brain. She also sustained a fracture to her jaw and an X-ray showed that part of a tooth was found in her windpipe.
Ms Bright’s mother Michelle Holmes, who was sitting on the back seat, spent 24 days recovering in hospital.
Prosecutors said she suffered bleeding in the front of her brain and cuts on her face.
She also sustained fractures to both sides of her jaw and damage to her left eye, which has resulted in ongoing blindness.
Collins had also pleaded not guilty to causing serious injury to Shane and Joanne Strevins, who were in a white Seat Ibiza travelling in the other direction.
Mr Strevins, who was driving the white Seat Ibiza, spent 16 days in hospital.
He suffered fractures to his lower spine, a broken rib, a bruised lung and spleen, perforated bowel, fracture to his left leg and torn knee ligaments.
His wife, who was in the front passenger seat, was discharged after 33 days, after being treated for fractures to her spine, wrist, foot and rib.
The jury of nine men and three women unanimously found Collins guilty of all five counts.
Thanking the jurors, Judge Eleri Rees said: “This was a difficult case for any jury to deal with.”
Witness Robert Janney said Collins looked “dazed” after the crash.
Local resident Stephen Gardner said he saw a man punching the dashboard asking: “What have I done?”
The defendant, who had not been wearing a seat belt, said he suffered injuries including a broken leg and pelvis, two broken ribs and a broken arm, as well as a torn aorta. He said he had no memory of the collision but told police he had no points on his licence, was not speeding and was not using a mobile phone.
The judge told him, ” You demonstrated a cavalier attitude to both your own safety and the safety of others.”
Collins was also disqualified from driving for eight years.