A drunken motorist who crashed on a wet road in the early hours – killing three passengers – has been jailed for nine years.
Provisional licence holder Jamie Riddick was almost twice the drink-drive limit - and the Citroen Saxo was not insured nor did it have a MoT certificate, a court heard.
The crash happened in Radford Road, Leamington, on June 20 last year when pub worker Riddick, now aged 21, was giving a lift to four people he met hours earlier at a nightclub.
He lost control and the car, which left the road and crashed into a tree and wall.
Those who died were in the back of the car. A fourth passenger, in the front seat, survived but was badly injured.
Riddick, formerly of Albion Street, Kenilworth but now of Park Piece, Kineton, appeared before Warwick Crown Court, sitting in Coventry, on Wednesday afternoon and admitted three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
Nathan Rhodes, 23, of Southam, Ryan Case, 25, of Stockton, and 27-year-old Emily Jennings, of Warwick, had injuries which prosecutor Martin Butterworth said would have caused instantaneous death.
He submitted that the case fell in the highest sentencing guidelines category for dangerous driving which resulted in multiple deaths.
The Saxo was purchased by Riddick and his father as an insurance write-off in November 2014 for £375. The defendant had regularly used it to drive to work.
Mr Butterworth said: “Part of the element of dangerousness in this case is the condition of this vehicle in the early hours of the 20th of June last year.”
An expert vehicle examiner described it as being in “terrible” condition. The battery was insecure, the front offside gaiter leaked hydraulic fluid, impairing the vehicle’s braking efficiency. Three tyres were under-inflated and the rear offside brake drum was so badly worn that when the brakes were applied metal came into contact with metal and “there was a loud noise.”
On the evening before the crash, Riddick was at home drinking with his girlfriend. They shared half a bottle of vodka.
During an argument, he assaulted and punched his girlfriend and gave her a black eye before leaving her, taking the car and driving to Leamington.
He was seen on CCTV driving into a nightclub car park. “He could be seen leaving the car clearly unsteady on his feet and going into the nightclub.”
Mr Butterworth said Charlie Smith, Nathan Rhodes, Ryan Case and Emily Jennings had been on a night out together and intended to return to Southam.
“The defendant had an argument with some of the people. He had a conversation. He asked if he could go back with them.”
Riddick persisted with his request and continued to drink while in the nightclub. He followed the others outside to a taxi.
“But the taxi could not accommodate all of them. He offered to take them to Southam. He could be seen to be unsteady on his feet.
“The defendant got into the driver’s seat. Nathan, Ryan and Emily got into the rear of the car. Charlie Smith got into the front passenger seat.”
There was loud music in the car, which was being driven “briskly if not quickly.”
It cut a corner on the wet road and struck a tree and a wall.
No other vehicles were involved in the crash. Riddick received no significant injury and remained conscious, having been ‘saved’ by the car’s only airbag. At the scene he initially denied being the driver but later asked: “Have I killed anyone?”
He lit a cigarette. On route to the police station, he pretended to be unconscious and unresponsive but had not suffered a head injury and was thought to be drunk.
A blood test at hospital revealed that Riddick had 155 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. The legal driving limit is 80mg.
Sentencing, Recorder Helen Mountfield QC told Riddick the crash happened after he had a “drunken, violent fight” with his girlfriend. The car, which had no MoT or insurance, was not safe. The tyres were severely under-inflated and the brakes were inefficient.
“You weren’t safe to drive because you were almost twice over the limit. You offered people a lift home in your car.
“At 2.45 that morning you lost control of the car. You killed three people and injured a fourth seriously.”
The judge added: “Nothing that I can say will restore these young lives.” But “any sentence that I can impose will be much shorter than any sentence [on the victims’ families] which is for the rest of their lives.”
Mitigating, Chris Jones said Riddick was 20 at the time of the “catastrophic” accident. He has no previous convictions.
“It is a very sad case. The vehicle’s MoT had expired a few days before the tragedy. Work had been done to prepare it for MoT.”
Recorder Mountfield disqualified Riddick from driving for 12 years. He must take a test before getting behind the wheel again.
She told him as he left the dock: “You will serve half [the sentence] in prison and the rest will be on licence.”
Six personal victim impact statements were read out in court by obviously upset, tearful relatives of the deceased. Riddick showed no emotion, occasionally closing his eyes.