May 6, 2016
Man sentenced over ditch plunge death in Mark near Burnham-On-Sea

A driver who caused a ditch crash near Burnham-On-Sea last year in which a man died has been given a suspended two-year prison sentence after the family of the victim pleaded with a judge not to jail him.

At a hearing in Taunton Crown Court, Dominic Harding, 28, from Bilston in West Midlands, was given a suspended sentence after the mother of Robert Goodwin, Vanessa, wrote to the judge asking that he be spared from jail.

The court heard that Harding lost control of his Renault Clio on a road bend in Mark near the White Horse Inn as he drove with Mr Goodwin following a barbecue on May 30th 2015.

The two, who were life-long friends, had been at the barbecue together before Harding left following a row after a neighbour had complained about the noise levels.

As Harding and Mr Goodwin drove along the B3139 through the village of Mark, Harding lost control and the vehicle landed upside down in a water-filled ditch besides the road.

The court was told that while Harding was able to escape, Mr Goodwin was unable to get out of the submerged car and died at the scene. Harding tried to free Mr Goodwin but tragically was unable to.

Police arrested Harding at 5.48am on May 30th. A breathalyser test found he had at least 54 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath at the time of the incident, which exceeded the legal limit of 35mg.

Harding had previously pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving. The court heard that Mr Goodwin's mother had written a letter to the judge, calling on him to spare him jail as the family did not want Harding's life further ruined by going to prison.

Passing down the sentence, and banning Harding from driving for two years and a victim surcharge of £120, Recorder Ignatius Hughes said: "His death is a tragedy for his parents and those close to him, including yourself as you are a close childhood friend. No sentence I give is going to bring Robert back."

"The parents of the deceased have written to the court saying they do not want to see your life ruined further with a prison sentence."

"Robert Goodwin was not a Somerset man, but he made his life here having moved to Highbridge from the West Midlands. I have read a letter from Mr Goodwin’s partner. She has written movingly about how the loss of her partner has affected her and her children."

"You have accepted that you should have adjusted your speed or the way you steered. The exact cause of the crash is uncertain. In the aftermath you tried to save the life of your friend - you would have been emotional, distressed and drenched in an area you did not know well."

"The pre-sentence report suggests you are remorseful and wracked by guilt following the incident."


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