A driver who killed his best friend when he drove the wrong way down a motorway while under the influence of drink and drugs has been jailed for five years and four months.
Christopher Clement did a three-point turn on the M20 between junctions four for Leybourne and three for Borough Green after going out clubbing with his front seat passenger Mohammed Chowdhury - best man at his wedding.
The 37-year-old security guard drove for almost three kilometres before crashing his Toyota Corolla at speed head-on into a Volkswagen Touareg.
Christopher Clement. Picture: Kent Police
Clement’s speedometer was “frozen” at 90mph and an expert estimated he could have been travelling at 80mph at the point of collision.
The former soldier wept as a judge told him: “Here your failure to observe the ordinary rules of the road was so stark so as to defy comprehension.
“You drove into the face of oncoming traffic at speed for an extended period of time. On any view, the headlamps coming towards you should have alerted you to your folly.”
Married father-of-two Clement, of Warham Grove, Orpington, admitted causing death by dangerous driving.
A three-year driving ban will start when he is released at the halfway point of the prison term on licence. He will have to pass an extended test before he can drive again.
Maidstone Crown Court heard he and work colleague Mr Chowdhury, 32, had been to a nightclub in Maidstone after working a 12-hour shift in London.
"Deep inside, I know I will never forgive myself for making a mistake that night" -
While he could not explain how he ended up driving in the third lane of the London-bound carriageway against the traffic, he admitted he had drunk two to three Peroni beers and two cognacs and smoked half a joint of cannabis.
The horrific accident happened at just after 3.30am on Saturday, March 4 this year as he was driving his friend, known as Mo, home.
Prosecutor Dale Sullivan said the Volkswagen driver John Bostock saw the car in front of him suddenly swerve to the left and then headlights coming towards him before the collision.
Mr Bostock got out of his car and said to Clement he was driving the wrong way. He replied: “Was I?”
“He describes him as looking out of it and smelling of alcohol,” said Mr Sullivan.
“His car was written off.”
The victim, from Becton, east London, died at the scene.
Mr Bostock escaped with a bruised forearm, cuts and bruises to his leg and whiplash. He had to take time off work and suffers flashbacks.
Clement, who served in the Royal Engineers from 2002 to 2006 and made one tour of Iraq, had a fractured rib and bruising.
The aftermath of the crash. Picture: Highways England
He was not breathalysed at hospital until nearly five hours later, but a back calculation showed he would have been more than twice the legal driving limit. Traces of cannabis were also in his blood.
Mr Choudhury’s brother Mohammed Hussain told in a victim impact statement of the “awful, horrendous and shocking injuries” he saw on his body.
He spoke of the “devastating heartache” caused by his brother’s death.
Adrian Rohard, defending, told Judge David Griffith-Jones QC: “The defendant doesn’t know how he came to be in the situation he found himself in. He has no recollection of how it happened.
“He remembers driving London-bound. He said he felt strange. The next thing he knew he was outside of the car having been involved in that serious collision.
“He can’t explain in real terms why the vehicle came to turn around on the motorway and why he was travelling in the wrong direction.
Judge David Griffith-Jones
“It is literally supposition about what might have happened. He recognises his driving was terrible and his actions in those hours were very dangerous.
“The impact is always enormous.”
Mr Rohard said Mr Choudhury was Clement’s best man when he married his Mexican wife in her home country in 2008.
Clement had stated: “Deep inside, I know I will never forgive myself for making a mistake that night.”
Judge Griffith-Jones said it was “something of a miracle” that neither Clement nor Mr Bostock were killed or seriously injured.
“Manifestly, it was your fault,” he continued.
“Sitting here in the anodyne atmosphere of a Crown Court it is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine the true magnitude of the devastation which is hinted at by the words of his brother.
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
“The harm for Mr Choudhury and his family is extreme. What could be worse? Fortunately, no one else lost their lives.
“The fact you were intoxicated may explain to some extent how yo cane to behave in such a dangerous and extraordinary way.
“Of course, you cannot complain about the heartache you are suffering but you bear a heavy responsibility for the devastation to your wife and daughters.
“You feel guilt and remorse for causing the death of your good friend. Such feelings will surely live with you forever.”
The judge added: “It goes without saying anything I have said can in no way diminish the pain and suffering this offence has inflicted on Mr Choudhury and his family and friends.”