A drink driver who killed a Wisbech man just five days before Christmas was nearly three times over the limit.
Keith Howlett (60) of Mill Lane, Wisbech, was killed on December 20 last year when the five car crash was caused by Stephen James.
James (47) of Parkside, Haverhill, was jailed for six years at Peterborough Crown Court today (Thursday).
Following the sentencing, Mr Howlett’s wife, Joy, said: “Keith went out to work that morning happy, smiling and looking forward to Christmas with his family but never came back.
“He was larger than life and a real family man. We’re all devastated by what has happened.
“Anyone thinking of getting in a car after a night of drinking please just stop and think about the consequences of your actions.”
The court was told James, an alcoholic, was on his way for his job as an oil tanker driver, when he tried to overtake a lorry on the A142 at Mepal at 5.58am - he was due to start work at 6am.
However, he struck the central reservation, and crashed head on with a Vauxhall Vivaro travelling in the opposite direction. The driver of the van suffered life changing injuries.
His actions also caused the lorry to swerve into the path of the other carriageway and into Mr Howlett’s Vauxhall Corsa. Mr Howlett, suffered fatal injuries and sadly died at the scene. Other drivers suffered serious injuries in the crash, and they are still recovering. At the roadside, James gave a positive reading for alcohol. At the time of the crash, he gave a reading of 207mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - the legal limit is 80mg.
A back calculation revealed James had started to drive when his alcohol level would have been 235mg in 100ml of blood.
Sentencing, Judge Enright said: “No-one should leave this court thinking the sentence I pass is the value placed on the deceased’s life.
“Rules regarding road safety are not to tie people down. They are there for the safety of the driver and others.”
Judge Enright said that despite James pleading guilty at the first opportunity, and admitting his offending when interviewed by police, he would not get the normal one third discount for the early guilty plea, as the evidence against him was so overwhelming. Instead he gave a 25 per cent discount.
Forensic Collision Investigator PC James Thorne said: “James robbed a family and friends of Keith just five days before Christmas after knowingly consuming a vast quantity of alcohol the night before he was due to start work at 6am.
“Running late and compounded due to his deplorable level of intoxication he made the decision to overtake a lorry in a place which was wholly inappropriate.
“We welcome the sentence today and hope it serves as a stark reminder and deterrent to those who drink and drive. If in doubt, don’t drink or don’t drive, the consequences can be fatal and far more devastating than you might think.”
James was also banned from driving for 10 years, and will have to sit an extended re-test before driving again.
He had pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.