A DRUNK driver whose passenger nearly died when he abandoned her with serious injuries in his wrecked car was jailed for 12 months yesterday.

A jury at Stirling Sheriff Court found Michael Cassidy, 33, guilty of endangering Miss Margaret McKay, 30, by leaving her in the wreck of his Ford Orion after hitting a wall and landing in a ditch on a country road at Chartershall near Stirling on June 29, last year.

Road worker Cassidy, of St Ninians, Stirling, who has a previous conviction for drink-driving, was also banned from driving for three years.

The convictions came at the end of a three-day trial last month. Sentence had been deferred until yesterday for background reports.

Cassidy did return to the car eventually with a friend.

He denied the charge, but was told by Sheriff Robert Younger: ''Although there was some element of you being in shock, and you eventually did go back and do something for your passenger, it was much too late. Despite your good work record I feel I can only put you into custody.''

He was also found guilty of careless driving, causing the accident in which Miss McKay suffered serious chest and abdominal injuries and was left permanently disfigured, and having no insurance.

Cassidy, of Cultenhove Road, St Ninians, admitted, however, that he had been driving while nearly twice the legal alcohol limit at the time of the late-night smash.

His lack of insurance means that Miss McKay will only be able to seek compensation from the motor insurers' umbrella organisation, the Motor Insurance Bureau, or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

In the witness box, Miss McKay broke down as she faced Cassidy.

She said although she had known Cassidy ''for years'' she had not seen him for almost 12 months when he turned up at her mother's home in Fallin, where she was living, and asked her to go with him for a drive.

She said: ''I told my mum I would be gone for a couple of minutes because that was how long I thought I'd be.''

Miss McKay said Cassidy was supposed to take her home after visiting a friend, but instead drove past her door and took her to pubs in Airth and Plean. He then took her to the Cowie Tavern.

The court heard that Cassidy had pints in each pub they visited, and they finally left the Cowie Tavern at 11.40pm.

Miss McKay said: ''I recall standing outside his car at the Cowie Tavern and my next memory is hitting the wall.''

She added: ''He told me to get out of the car, but I couldn't get my seat-belt off and my ankle was trapped.

''Michael didn't try to help me. He didn't try and get my seat-belt off or free my leg. He got out of the car window and said he would get help. I was very scared and panicking - I didn't know if the car was going to blow up.''

The court heard that Cassidy left the scene on foot, passed a phone box without stopping to dial 999, and went to a friend's where he asked for a lift back to the accident scene.

Cassidy and his friend, Mr Ramsay McEwan, 32, then tried to get Miss McKay out of the car themselves.

Finally, Mr McEwan called an ambulance. The court heard that by this time, some three hours had elapsed since Miss McKay and Cassidy left the Cowie Tavern.

Firemen had to cut the roof off the car and free her legs before she could be removed from the vehicle .

Mr Dudley Booth, the consultant surgeon at Stirling Royal Infirmary who carried out emergency surgery on Miss McKay, said she had a number of life-threatening injuries and was lucky to have lived to reach the operating theatre.