Gloucestershire

Father's plea over drink-driver who killed son

The father of a student killed in a road accident pleaded for leniency for the drink driver who killed his son.

Benedict McGrath died when he was a front-seat passenger in Alexander Bell-Irving's car which crashed into a tree in Wiltshire in January.

Bell-Irving, 22, of Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, was nearly two-and-a-half times the limit.

Donal McGrath said he did not want to see another life wasted, as Bell-Irving was jailed for 32 months.

Drinking at pub

Mr McGrath was an undergraduate at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

The friends had spend the evening drinking at a pub in Oaksey, near Malmesbury, in Wiltshire.

Swindon Crown Court heard that the defendant and Mr McGrath left the pub at about 2300 GMT to return to the flat they shared in Cirencester.

Bell-Irving was driving his Vauxhall Corsa when he failed to negotiate a left hand bend close to Oaksey Woods and hit a tree.

A police crash investigator concluded that Bell-Irving was not speeding and simply failed to negotiate the bend because he was drunk.

Prosecutor Colin Meeke told the court: "Mr McGrath was not wearing a seatbelt. Whether that might have helped him is mere speculation.

"The pattern of the tyre tracks led the police investigator to one conclusion only - that the high alcohol level in Mr Bell-Irving had simply led him to not negotiate the bend.

'Very remorseful'

"He has never sought to evade responsibility for what he has done and he pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity."

Friends had written more than a dozen character references in support of Bell-Irving and many were in court to see him sentenced.

Mr McGrath said Bell-Irving regretted his actions.

"He is very remorseful for what happened. The fact is a lot of friends of both of them are here to support him."

At an earlier hearing, Bell-Irving, of White Hill, Hoddom, admitted causing the death of Mr McGrath by careless driving while unfit through drink.

After the crash he gave a blood alcohol reading of 182mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The legal limit is 80mg.

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