A 31-YEAR-OLD Dundee man stabbed his friend in the neck, partly severing his spinal cord, after a cocaine-fuelled binge which ended when the victim crunched the gears of the accused's car, the High Court at Forfar was told yesterday.

But the court was told the actions of Derek Harvey in attempting to staunch the flow of arterial blood from his friend's neck may have saved his life.

Surgeons found that the wound in Drew Duncan's neck was four centimetres deep and leaking fluid from his brain. He could not feel his hands or feet and was confined to a wheelchair for a time.

Lord Kingarth sentenced Harvey, whose address was said at the time to have been Butterburn Court, Dundee, to five years in prison.

He admitted that on January 11, at Kingsway retail park, he assaulted Duncan, c/o Tayside Police, by repeatedly striking him on the head and body with a knife to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and permanent injury, and to the danger of his life.

Harvey, who was originally charged with attempted murder, also had a plea of not guilty to a breach of the peace accepted by the Crown.

Advocate depute Brian McConnachie said that on the previous evening Harvey, Duncan, and a girl had been smoking cocaine.

The following day Duncan had also taken cocaine and methadone, a heroin substitute.

At 1 pm they had gone to Burger King in the accused's car with Harvey in the rear seat.

"When they arrived, Duncan apparently crunched the gears a number of times which it seems annoyed the accused and an argument took place," said Mr McConnachie.

During the argument the girl saw the accused strike Duncan three times, he said, and she saw a knife in Harvey's hand.

By chance there had been a doctor in the car park and he saw Duncan had a cut behind his left ear which appeared to be pumping arterial blood.

"By the time he arrived, Harvey was already applying pressure to the wound and he gave him cotton wool balls to assist him in applying pressure," said Mr McConnachie

Mr McConnachie said Harvey was cradling Duncan's head trying to calm him down, but Duncan was shouting that he was dying.

At Ninewells Hospital Duncan was found to have two wounds, a superficial one at the right side and one at the left of his neck. The left was four centimetres deep, with bleeding from the carotid artery.

One doctor's opinion was that if pressure had not been applied, Duncan could have lost a significant amount of blood and it could have proved fatal. The wound became infected, Duncan's condition deteriorated and he developed a hand tremor.

The wound, said Mr McConnachie, was leaking clear fluid which was suspected to be from the brain and a scan revealed the back of the spinal cord had been cut and air had entered the skull.

A surgeon said Duncan would improve over six to 12 months. Initially the victim had to use a wheelchair but a month ago he was able to walk unaided.

The surgeon, said Mr McConnachie, confirmed the injury was potentially fatal. If the rest of the spinal cord had been cut he would not have been able to breathe. "In his opinion, he was very lucky to have survived the injury."

James Reilly, advocate for the accused, said Harvey had been deeply involved in drugs for a number of years, taking cocaine in a fairly uninhibited way.

He said there had been a dispute involving a debt with suppliers of the cocaine and in the car park, Harvey thought he saw two people in a car and he felt Duncan was not doing enough to elude them.

It was not, he said, a premeditated attack with a view to causing a potentially fatal injury. Rather it was a spontaneous attack.

Lord Kingarth said the attack could very well have ended Duncan's life. "All of which is entirely foreseeable having regard to the nature of the attack. This is something the court has to take seriously, not least in the light of your record which is generally disgraceful, contains four convictions for assault, and one as recent as 1997 for carrying a knife."

© D.C. Thomson & Co Ltd., Dundee, Scotland, UK. All rights reserved. These pages best viewed with Netscape Navigator 3+ and MSIE 3+ . Any questions, suggestions or comments can be emailed.