A MAN behind the wheel of a car involved in a fatal crash in Kendal had been on a drink and drugs spree in the hours before it happened, a court heard.
James Oliver, 29, of Liverpool, was jailed for eight years last Friday after a court heard he reached ‘grossly excessive speeds’ before colliding with a wall on Aynam Road, killing local lad and passenger Robert ‘H’ Clinton.
“This case remains an appalling human tragedy,” said Judge Paul Batty at Carlisle Crown Court.
“By your dangerous and reckless driving you killed your friend.”
The court heard that on March 23, last year, Oliver consumed beer, vodka and ‘three or four’ lines of cocaine before attempting to drive two friends home from a house party in Burneside.
Witnesses saw the silver Peugeot 106 reach speeds of up to 80mph as it arrived in Kendal at around 10.30pm.
When the car crashed, on 30mph Aynam Road, its speedometer had frozen at just over 60mph.
A blood-alcohol test found Oliver – who has a previous conviction for drink-driving – was more than twice the legal limit.
"The aggravating features of this case are plain to see,” continued Judge Batty.
“You lost control on a bend because you were driving at grossly excessive speed, you were under the influence of alcohol and drugs, you had been warned not to drive and disregarded the warnings and you have a relevant previous conviction involving excess alcohol.”
The court was also told that the tyre pressures on the car were 45 per cent below the manufacturer’s recommended levels.
Mr Clinton, 21, of Well Ings, was pronounced dead at the scene.
A second passenger suffered cuts and bruises.
“He’s the sole person responsible for this,” said Paul Kilty, defending Oliver.
“Mr Oliver will live everyday of his life knowing the devastating consequences of his actions and how that’s affected so many lives.”
Sentencing, Judge Batty acknowledged that the eight year imprisonment would seem ‘wholly inadequate’ to the friends and family of Mr Clinton.
“No price can be put on a human life, but especially a life as precious as that of young man, Mr Clinton,” he told Oliver.
“It was your close friend H, who you considered a little brother, who you killed, and you will have to live with that for the rest of your life.”
Oliver, who came into court on crutches, sobbed throughout the hearing.
His family sat in the public gallery, separated from Mr Clinton’s family by police officers.
Oliver, who was also banned from driving for six years, will serve at least half of his sentence before he will be eligible for parole.
After the sentencing, the family of Robert H Clinton said a giant weight had been lifted.
Speaking to the Gazette after the case, his mum, Jennifer, said the family were ‘satisfied’ with the outcome of the hearing, adding: “It’s closure. Now we can put the court case behind us and grieve for him.”
Earlier in court Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting, had told how Mr Clinton’s mother was ‘trying to cope with having a heart full of sorrow’.
“His mother describes the loss of H as having destroyed her world,” he said.
“She feels let down by James Oliver as losing H is like losing her soulmate and her rock.”
In a joint statement released later, the family - including sister, Stacey, and dad, Robert - said: “No sentence will ever bring our H back and we will forever miss him.
“However, the sentence passed is the most severe given the guidelines and we thankfully to Judge Batty for that.”
They added: “H will always be in our hearts.”