Passenger guilty of death by dangerous driving

Millionaire businessman jailed for failing to tell his partner to slow down
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The Independent Online

A man has been jailed for four years for causing death by dangerous driving even though he was not behind the wheel when the crash happened.

John Nichols, 59, was a passenger in his Jaguar XJ8 when it hit and killed a young couple on the A1 in Lincolnshire. His partner, Mary Butres, 48, had been driving the vehicle at the time.

But because she was drunk, and Nichols, a millionaire businessman, had allowed her to drive, he too was convicted. A jury decided he had failed to tell her to slow down and could have prevented the tragedy. It is thought to be the first time in the UK that the passenger of a vehicle has been convicted of causing death by dangerous driving. Legal experts said that there had been a previous case of a man being found guilty of a similar offence in Shrewsbury in 2005 but the conviction was later overturned on appeal.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman explained the decision to charge Nichols with causing death by dangerous driving rather than aiding and abetting the offence. She said: "We felt they were both equally responsible. He had given the keys to her knowing she had had a lot to drink."

Nichols and Butres had spent the day at the races in Nottingham drinking wine when he then allowed her to drive his car. She lost control when she hit standing water while driving at over 110mph in torrential rain in May 2007.

The Jaguar smashed into the Ford Fiesta of Mark Crompton, 20, and Jodie Brown, 19, which had broken down near the central reservation. The couple, from Grantham, in Lincolnshire, and Ms Brown's brother Nick, who were walking away from the stranded car, were then themselves hit, Nottingham Crown Court was told.

The impact was so powerful that Mr Crompton and Ms Brown were catapulted all the way on to the opposite carriageway and killed.

The car's "black box" data recorder revealed Butres was travelling at 113mph, despite poor weather conditions. A calculation of her blood-alcohol level also showed that she had been almost one and a half times the legal limit at the time of the crash.

Last month Butres, from Stamford, Lincolnshire, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years after admitting two charges of causing death by dangerous driving.

Nichols, the owner of a packing firm, denied the same offences, claiming the crash was beyond his control, but he was convicted by a jury last year.

Sentencing him on Tuesday, Judge John Milmo, said Nichols, who witnesses claimed had looked like he had been drinking, had been aware Butres was over the drink drive limit and was driving far too fast for the conditions.

He told Nichols, from Carlby, Lincolnshire, that witnesses described his Jaguar "as coming like a bullet, doing well over 100 miles per hour".