Road safety campaigner calls for tough sentences after drink-driver who was five times legal limit was spared jail

Ipswich Magistrates' Court

Ipswich Magistrates' Court - Credit: Archant

A retired prison officer whose friend was killed by a drink driver has called for “zero tolerance” on offenders after growing frustrated by the “soft sentences” he claims are given in Suffolk and Essex.

Ron Napean, 63, has been campaigning for tougher action to be taken against drink drivers after the death of Keith Sargent, 42, of Roxwell, who died in a head-on collision near Abridge in Essex in April 2006.

The driver of the other car, who had drunk eight pints of strong lager before the crash, was jailed for five years in 2007.

Mr Napean, who lives in Dovercourt, said he had been compelled to resurrect his campaign in light of the “joke” sentences he fears are being issued to other drink drivers. He was particularly concerned with the sentencing of Christian Kirkham, of Stones Green, Harwich, who was spared jail after being found to be nearly five times over the legal limit.

Kirkham was seen driving erratically on the A14 and A12 on December 12 and was stopped by police at London Road, Capel St Mary.

The 33-year-old admitted drink-driving before South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

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The court was told a breath test showed he had 176 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35mcgs. Magistrates gave Kirkham a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, after the court was told he was a man of “exemplary” character who held down a responsible job and was facing various personal issues.

Mr Napean has called for the criminal justice system to adopt a tougher stance on drink driving to spare families the heartbreak of losing a loved one in needless road accidents.

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“I’ve been fighting this for a long time and it needs to stop,” he said.

“There needs to be zero tolerance on drink driving, because some sentences are a joke.”

The campaigner, who has visited pubs in Essex to report drink-drivers, is now calling for a mandatory five year driving ban for people caught over the limit and compulsory prison sentences.

He also wants pub staff to be stricter on serving alcohol to people they believe may be driving.

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