Published: 13:50, 13 May 2014
A drink-driver who caused the death of a parish councillor in a car crash has today been jailed for four years.
Liam Davis was almost twice the legal alcohol limit when he lost control of his car and veered into the path of long-serving Brenchley and Matfield councillor Ronald Berry.
A judge told the 27-year-old bar manager: "Quite simply, you were affected by the alcohol you had taken. You drove carelessly no doubt because your judgement was impaired by the alcohol you had consumed."
Davis, of Cleavesland, Laddingford, Maidstone, denied causing death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit, but was convicted on March 20.
The jury of six men and six women took more than 13 hours to reach a 10-2 majority verdict.
Davis was banned from driving for four years and will have to take an extended test before his licence is returned.
Maidstone Crown Court heard businessman Mr Berry, 73, died after his Peugeot 406 was in a head-on collision with Davis's Land Rover Freelander.
They were travelling in opposite directions on a bend in Queen Street, in Paddock Wood, on December 3 2012.
Widower Mr Berry, who owned Burnbright Fuels in Lucks Lane, was heading towards Brenchley. He was not wearing a seatbelt.
Both cars ended up in ditches. Paramedics were at first unable to release the victim from his car. He died at the scene from multiple injuries.
Davis, who claimed Mr Berry was on the wrong side of the road, told police he had two pints of beer at The Star pub in nearby Matfield, but he revealed at his trial that he had also been drinking at a pub in Brenchley.
Passing sentence today, Judge Martin Joy told Davis he had been convicted on overwhelming evidence.
There was little doubt, he said, that Mr Berry had medical problems - including with his eyes - and it was said it might have been unwise for him to drive that night.
"However, you caused his death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit and that is the offence I have to deal with," the judge added.
"I accept you are deeply remorseful. I am satisfied you were shocked by what you had done. Clearly, no one can turn the clock back.
"In my judgement, it was drink which caused your inattention. You knew the amount of alcohol you had taken. You knew at the time that you should not have been behind the wheel.
"Had you decided to stay in the pub or get a taxi home this tragedy would not have happened. This was a completely unnecessary death."
Judge Joy added he had read a statement from the victim's daughter Tina Middleton, detailing the impact of the death.
Mr Berry, a father-of-two with three grandchildren, established Brenchley Youth Club in the 1960s. He was also a former secretary and treasurer of Horsmonden Social Club.
PC Graham Holdstock, of the Kent Police serious crash investigation unit, said the death of Mr Berry was tragic reminder of the consequences of drink-driving.
He said: "This case is sadly an example of how the reckless and selfish actions of those who drive in an unfit state, can have such devastating consequences.
"I only hope that Mr Berry's tragic death will remind people to think twice when they get into a vehicle and to never drink and drive."
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