Published: 16:01, 16 December 2016
A speeding driver who lost control of his car and caused the death of two friends in the early hours of New Year’s Day has been jailed for seven years.
A judge said Ashley Howard, who had no licence or insurance, must have been travelling at a "grossly excessive" speed when he crashed.
Howard, 23, admitted two charges of causing death by dangerous driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving to another passenger.
He had also admitted two charges of causing death while uninsured and two of causing death while unlicensed.
He told Maidstone Crown Court he had no memory of the two victims getting into his car or the crash.
Howard was with Rosie Crittenden, 27, in his Renault Clio when he gave friends Michael Shepherd, 27, and Karl Buchan, 23, both from Faversham, a lift from the town to Sittingbourne.
The car crashed into the Jubilee Pump historic monument in London Road, Teynham, at about 1.20am killing dad-of-four Mr Shepherd and Mr Buchan.
Miss Crittenden, who was in court with family and friends of the victims, suffered serious injuries including a broken neck.
After the crash, Howard, of Carisbrooke Road, Newport, Isle of Wight, was treated in hospital for three months.
He was banned from driving for eight-and-a-half years and will have to take an extended test before he would be allowed back on the road.
He will serve half the sentence before being released on licence.
The sentence was described by one of those in court as "a joke".
Prosecutor Catherine Donnelly said Miss Crittenden had been to a party with her parents on New Year’s Eve at a local club and met up with Howard just before midnight.
He drove her to his house in Faversham, where they stayed for a while. He was driving her home when they saw Mr Shepherd and Mr Buchan walking in the town and he offered them a lift.
Miss Crittenden later described going over the brow of a hill into Teynham and Howard fighting with the steering wheel. She closed her eyes and when she came too she was upside down in the car strapped into her seatbelt.
Another driver, Kevin Jones, who had been travelling in the same direction from Faversham remembered saying to his wife about the Clio “He’s moving” as it accelerated away.
The car went out of sight and Mr Jones commented: “He must have really hammered it.”
When they reached Teynham, they saw blue flashing lights at the crash scene near the Dover Castle pub.
The historic monument had been completely destroyed. The Clio was on its roof in a garden after hitting the kerb, a parked car and a wall.
Miss Donnelly said the damage to the car was so severe officers were unable to determine the make. Shouting and screaming could be heard.
Both Mr Shepherd and Mr Buchan had been thrown out of the car and were lifeless as CPR was administered by paramedics.
Officers were told that both men had died.
Howard was shouting and screaming as he was pulled through the driver’s side window. He had to be restrained in an ambulance.
“He didn’t calm down,” said Miss Donnelly. “He didn’t seem to comprehend what was going on or where he was. All he seemed to want to do is fight.”
He was treated by air ambulance medics and taken to a London hospital.
A blood test showed the presence of cannabis and ketamine in Howard’s blood, but it was not suggested they played any part in the accident.
A crash investigator established that the victims had not been wearing seatbelts in the back of the car.
He estimated the car would have had to be travelling at a speed of at least 60mph when it went over the brow of the hill before entering the 30mph limit.
Judge Jeremy Carey said Howard had been travelling at such excessive speed as he reached the brow of the hill that he lost control.
“In fact, you should not have been driving at all,” he said. “You had no driving licence and, therefore, were not insured.
“You may think that you knew how to drive, but quite plainly you didn’t, at least in a safe way.
“It is quite plain you lost control of that car because you were driving at a grossly excessive speed in the circumstances. You were driving far, far too fast.
“So fast was your speed and so great the collision that Michael Shepherd and Karl Buchan were thrown from the vehicle and both were killed either instantly or near instantaneously.”
Miss Crittenden, who had been drunk, suffered serious head injuries, a punctured lung and neck fractures, a fractured pelvis and damaged bladder.
The judge said Mr Shepherd and his fiance Hayley Miller were planning to marry this Christmas. They had two children.
She described in a moving statement the devastating impact of Mr Shepherd’s death, saying she was an “emotional wreck”.
His mother, Jane Buchan, insisted on reading her impact statement out in court at the sentencing hearing on Friday.
“I have no doubt about her sense of misery and desolation,” said Judge Carey. “The same must be acknowledged in respect of Karl Buchan, still only 23.”
Judge Carey told Howard: “What I have to say to you is very important. You have to be sentenced for your criminal wrongdoing - and that means a long prison sentence.
“But no prison sentence will restore Michael or Karl to their grieving families and no sentence will, nor should it, appease their sense of outrage or bewilderment that the senseless act on your part will have such grievous consequences.
“I doubt it will be much consolation to those who grieve - nor could it be.”
Miss Crittenden happily still had a life, but she had been greatly affected by injury and trauma.
“In my judgement, your driving that night created a substantial risk of danger,” continued the judge.
“You say ‘I have a life sentence of guilt and I will never forgive myself and don’t expect anyone else to either’. But you do have a life.
“I reach the conclusion your driving was plainly dangerous.”
Gordon Ross, defending, said Howard had no memory of the accident. He spent over three weeks in a post-traumatic amnesia unit and was discharged from hospital care on March 10.
He recalled arranging to meet the two victims that night and that they had invited him to a party.
He remembered saying he would drive Miss Crittenden home first, but did not remember getting into the car.
“He has no memory of driving off and no memory of the crash itself, or the events at the scene or the aftermath,” said Mr Gordon.
“His next memory is coming round in hospital. He always accepted his responsibility for causing the death of these two gentlemen.
“Quite frankly, the defendant is horrified at the consequences of his driving. To use his words, ‘The consequences of my driving are eating me up.’
“He accepts what ever sentence the court imposes. He will have to live with his actions for the rest of his life.”
He had said he wanted to be disqualified for life and did not intend to drive every again.
Howard was sentenced to seven years for each of the death by dangerous driving offences, and concurrent sentences of three years for causing serious injury to Miss Crittenden and 10 months for having no licence or insurance.