York & North Yorkshire

Death driver's drug levels 'highest police had seen'

Christopher Backhouse Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption At York Crown Court, Christopher Backhouse admitted causing the death of Alexander Baron by driving whilst unfit through drugs

A driver who had a "staggering amount" of drugs in his system when he killed a passenger in a car crash has been jailed for two years.

Christopher Backhouse, 26, from Scarborough, admitted causing the death of his friend Alexander Baron.

York Crown Court heard Backhouse, son of a former Scarborough mayor, was 130 times over the new drug-driving limit after the crash on the A64 in 2014.

Police said he had a "potentially fatal level" of MDMA in his system.

The court heard Mr Baron, 22, from Scarborough, was in the back seat of the Renault Clio as Backhouse drove back from the Boomtown Music Festival in Winchester, Hampshire.

Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Alexander Baron, 22, from Scarborough, was killed when the car driven by Christopher Backhouse crashed on the A64 near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire

As the car left the road near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, a piece of wood from a railing struck Mr Baron. The vehicle was found overturned in a ditch.

Results of a post-mortem examination indicated he would have died instantly.

Traffic constable Zoe Billings, of North Yorkshire Police, said: "The amount of drugs found in Backhouse's system was simply staggering - the highest reading our force has ever seen.

"How he thought he was fit to drive is just beyond comprehension. To then agree to take passengers and put their lives at risk was just plain irresponsible and sadly had very tragic consequences."

Drug-driving law

  • After a change in the drug driving law on 2 March 2015, drivers face prosecution if they exceed limits set for the presence of eight illegal drugs, including MDMA
  • The new rules run alongside the existing law, under which it is an offence to drive when impaired by any drug
  • Under section 5A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, 10 microgrammes per litre of blood is the limit for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA).

In a statement, Mr Baron's family said: "To learn that the driver of the car had been found with a very high level of an illegal substance in his system was difficult to comprehend, the thought of someone being so irresponsible and the fact that this accident could have been so easily prevented, infuriates us.

"The new drug-drive laws were not in place at the time of Alex's death, but to learn that the driver's level was in excess of 100 times the new drug drive limit shows the severity of his ways."

At the court hearing, Backhouse was also banned from driving for three years.

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