Jail for drug-driver who killed man, 65, in crash
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A drug-driver who caused this horrific crash – killing one man and seriously injuring his wife – has been jailed.
Christopher Fenton was driving an Audi S4 eastbound on Fairlight Road, Fairlight, around 6.45pm on 6 March 2020 when the tragic incident occurred.
He clipped the wing mirror of a Volkswagen Polo travelling in the opposite direction, before mounting the nearside verge and then crossing into the path of an oncoming Citroen Picasso.
The Picasso was driven by Marcus Haynes, 65, from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, who sadly died from his injuries at the scene.
His wife, aged 66, suffered serious injuries and their son, aged 24, from Stroud in Gloucestershire, sustained minor injuries.
Fenton, aged 40, self-employed, of Lower Waites Lane, Fairlight, ran away from the scene but was later returned by his mother, having changed his footwear.
He also suffered serious injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment, where blood tests were taken. This revealed he had alcohol in his system – just under the legal limit – and had 6.1mcg of cannabis per litre of blood in his system. The legal limit is 2mcg.
Enquiries by a specialist forensic collision investigator also revealed he was travelling at approximately 76mph in a 60mph zone just prior to the collision.
He was subsequently arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and was released under investigation pending further enquiries.
But Fenton continued to drive while under the influence, putting himself and other road users at significant risk – on 18 November, he was arrested in Pevensey Bay by officers from the Sussex Roads Policing Unit, and found to have 6.5mcg of cannabis per litre of blood in his system.
He pleaded guilty to this offence at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on 8 January, and was disqualified from driving for 12 months and ordered to pay costs totalling £280. He was remanded in custody pending the outcome of the fatal investigation in Fairlight.
Fenton pleaded guilty to the offences of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and appeared at Lewes Crown Court on Monday 10 May, where he was sentenced to a total of three years and eight months’ imprisonment.
He was also disqualified from driving for five years and 10 months, and must take an extended re-test should he wish to drive again in the future.
However, the sentence was appealed, and at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday 6 July, it was increased to five years and three months. His driving disqualification period was also extended to six years and seven months.
The court agreed the original sentence was unduly lenient for reasons including the seriousness of the injuries sustained by Mrs Haynes, which were not properly taken into account, and that Fenton only returned to the scene because of his mother, and more weight should have been placed on this.
Lead investigator, Detective Sergeant Rob Baldwin, of the Serious Collision Investigations Unit, said: “Tragically, this is another case which highlights the dangers of driving whilst under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Christopher Fenton got behind the wheel of his car having consumed alcohol and smoked cannabis, and then drove recklessly.
“He left the collision scene on foot whilst other motorists had stopped to render urgent medical assistance, not returning for over an hour later. Despite the devastation that he had caused, he continued to think it was acceptable to drive whilst under the influence of cannabis.
“Acting on information from the local community, officers from our Roads Policing Unit proactively targeted Fenton, resulting in his further arrest and prosecution. It is clear that he was an habitual cannabis user, who had no consideration for the significant risk he posed to other road users and himself.”
People in Sussex can text officers on 65999 with the details of people they suspect of drink or drug-driving, or visit the Operation Crackdown website.
You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it online.
If you know someone is driving while over the limit or after taking drugs, call 999.