Don't jail man who threw cone says victim

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A STUDENT who suffered horrific injuries when she was hit by a traffic cone thrown from George IV Bridge has asked a judge not to jail the man responsible.

Andrew Smith, 30, today admitted hurling the cone 40ft from the bridge after a drunken night out in the city centre last November.

It hit Kate Flannery, 24, who was chatting to friends outside a pub, leaving her with a smashed skull and three fractured vertebrae in her spine. Doctors originally feared the injuries would leave her paralysed.

The High Court in Edinburgh was today told that it was a "tragic case" arising out of a "very stupid act".

As Australian Smith, whose address was given as Buccleuch Terrace, pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable and reckless conduct, judge Lady Dorrian heard Ms Flannery and her family did not want to see him jailed.

Advocate depute Alex Prentice, prosecuting, said: "Ms Flannery and her family have indicated that they bear no ill-will against the accused and that they do not wish to see him receive a custodial sentence."

Mr Prentice said they had handed over a letter to be passed to the judge.

Lady Dorrian called for background reports and allowed first offender Smith to remain on bail. He is due to return to court later this month to be sentenced.

The judge warned him that a prison sentence had not been ruled out.

The court heard that when Smith heard what had happened he handed himself into police.

He had been larking about after leaving a Victoria Street nightclub on Saturday, November 18, the court heard.

After holding the "witch's hat" above his head he slung it at railings on the bridge. The cone went over the railings and fell on to Merchant Street below, where it struck Ms Flannery.

As she slumped, unconscious, in the street a passer-by gave first aid and an ambulance was called.

Both Smith and flatmate John Conlon ran away from the bridge unaware that Ms Flannery had been injured.

The court heard that Ms Flannery had been working hard at rebuilding her life.

At the time, Ms Flannery, from Galway, was studying occupational therapy at Queen Margaret University College and was due to graduate in August.

Last December she underwent an operation to use bone from her hip to repair damage to her spine. Her arms and legs gradually got stronger and she left hospital in February. Doctors said it was "pure chance" that she was not paralysed for life. The skull fracture could also have caused bleeding in her brain, but did not.

It is likely her limbs will be weakened for the rest of her life and she runs an increased risk of arthritis in later life. She may also have difficulty making fine movements with her fingers - which could affect her career.

"Ms Flannery walks with a stick and requires to sit down a great deal," said Mr Prentice.

He added: "It is clear that Ms Flannery is rebuilding her life well. She swims and sees a chiropractor daily. She is not driving at present but she visits friends and shops. It remains her intention to return to Edinburgh in August to resume her studies."

Advocate Gavin Anderson, defending, said: "It will be obvious that this is a very tragic case with tragic results, arising out of a very stupid act."