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'Emotional statement' during court sentencing

'Emotional statement' during court sentencing
Clark Stewart in court on Monday.

The parents of a young man killed in a horror crash have urged people to stop and think before getting behind the wheel.

They made the emotional statement during the sentencing of Clark Thomas Stewart, 21, who was using crutches when he appeared in the Ashburton District Court today.

Stewart was sentenced to 11 months home detention and disqualified from driving for two years.

He had earlier admitted one charge of drink driving causing death and four charges of drink driving causing injury on October 15 last year.

Stewart and his five friends got into a Peugeot hatchback on his family’s farm on Mainwarings Road in Dorie and headed to Rakaia at about 8pm.

Stewart was behind the wheel and one of his friends was in the boot.

According to the summary of facts Stewart drove at about 128km/h along Gardiners Road, veered slightly, overcorrected and lost control. The car slid sideways into a tree with devastating consequences.

The 23 year old man in the front passenger seat was killed almost instantly when the impact pushed the steering wheel into the passenger seat.

Two of the occupants were critically injured and three seriously injured.

Testing revealed Stewart’s blood alcohol level was 94mg per 100ml of blood. The legal blood alcohol limit is 50mg.

Stewart faced a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine drink driving causing death and a maximum of five years in jail or a $20,000 fine for each of the injury charges.

Before sentencing, the parents of the dead man read an emotional statement and appealed to people to stop and think before they get behind the wheel.

"Life is so fragile and taken away forever."

They said the culture of drink driving and speeding needed to be addressed - but also wished the best outcome for everyone involved.

Judge Campbell Savage said the accident was an absolute tragedy "that turned into a nightmare and changed the course of so many lives".

The decision to drive after drinking was not normal for Stewart, and he had in the past stopped others from driving when drinking, the court heard.

Numerous character references attested to the fact that Stewart was a selfless and responsible person.

It would usually be appropriate for a jail sentence for this type of sentence, Judge Savage said.

While there was alcohol and speed involved, and the vehicle was overloaded, there were mitigating factors including an absence of previous convictions, Stewart's early guilty plea and genuine remorse.

The fact the Stewart would also suffer a permanent disability was also considered.

In arriving at his sentence for the "very serious" offence Judge Savage said Stewart was not "grossly" over the alcohol limit.

He applied a discount for Stewart's youth, "palpable remorse" and early guilty plea.

The judge also considered the opinions of the victims and this lowered to sentence to eleven months home detention.

Stewart was also disqualified from driving for two years.

Judge Savage said that he hoped Stewart would be able to forgive himself with time. The best tribute Stewart could give his dead friend would be to live his life the full, the judge said.

The names of all of the victims were suppressed.