Full court report: Drink-driver John Clarke, 79, jailed for causing crash which killed two people

Have your say

A 79-year-old drink-driver has been jailed for four years for causing the deaths of a mother and daughter in a car crash on the Oakham bypass.

John Clarke, 79, of Warn Crescent, Oakham, was also banned from driving for 10 years at Leicester Crown Court on Wednesday.

Jacqueline Hibbins, 65, and her mother Jeanne Slyfield, 85, who lived together in Westfield Avenue, Oakham, died following the crash on March 18, 2010.

Clarke had admitted two counts of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of alcohol at a hearing in February.

Gordon Aspden, prosecuting, said Clarke was returning from North Luffenham Golf Club in his Ford Galaxy.

He said a witness driving in front of Clarke on the A6003 towards Oakham saw his car “being driven erratically and veering into the middle of the road”.

The witness said Clarke’s head was “bobbing at the wheel” and she was so concerned she pulled into a lay-by in Gunthorpe to allow him to pass.

Clarke lost control on a bend near the Uppingham Road junction and hit the kerb.

Mr Aspden said Clarke tried to regain control of the car but it spun and hit Mrs Hibbins’ Ford Focus, which was travelling towards Uppingham.

He said: “There was a very violent impact. The Ford Focus was knocked off the road.”

Mrs Hibbins died at the scene. Mrs Slyfield was taken to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where she died four days later.

Clarke suffered a fractured spine, broken jaw, broken arm and a collapsed lung.

A blood sample found a prescription drug and alcohol readings between 101mg and 214mg in 100ml blood. The limit is 80mg. The court accepted the lowest reading.

Mr Aspden said: “An empty half-litre bottle of vodka was found in the footwell and a witness at the scene said there was a smell of alcohol on the defendant’s breath.”

He said Clarke said he could not remember the collision and told police he had stopped drinking in 2009.

Clarke had been convicted of drink-driving in October 2004 after a crash on the same road.

Kevin Barry, mitigating, said Clarke had asked him to pass on his “most sincere apologies” to the family.

He asked the judge to recognise Clarke’s guilty pleas, his age and the injuries he suffered. He said Clarke could have drunk alcohol the night before.

He said Clarke surrendered his driving licence last year and “the vast majority of his life has been lived well and properly.”

He asked the judge to consider the “complex regime of medication” he takes for osteoarthritis in his spine.

Mr Barry said: “He does feel very great remorse for what he has done.”

Sentencing Clarke, Judge Robert Brown said: “This collision was caused by driver error.

“You were under the influence of alcohol and possibly prescription drugs and should not have been at the wheel of any vehicle at all.”

After the hearing Det Con Paul Bingham said: “Both Jacqueline and Jeanne were loving mothers and grandmothers with Jeanne also being a great-grandmother.

“Their deaths have left a huge space in their families’ lives and they are still attempting to deal with the effect this tragedy has had on them.

“This case is a sad reminder of the devastating effect drink-driving can have and we hope that this highlights the consequences that the drunk driver may face.”