Dartford drug driver jailed for three years over fatal school run crash
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 August 2019
A drug-driver who was on the school run when he killed a motorcyclist has been jailed for three years and four months.
Luke McErlean, 35, of Stone, was taking his two young sons to school when his Mercedes hit the back wheel of a motorcycle, sending Dominic Bassett, 41, into the air and into a lamppost in Sidcup Road, Eltham, on October 9.
Other motorists said they had been "uncomfortable" with McErlean's driving and the state of his vehicle, and claimed he did not look to the left before "swerving aggressively" and "veering sharply", the Old Bailey heard.
McErlean, a cannabis user since he was 15, had 3.5 micrograms of THC (the active chemical in cannabis) per litre of blood in his system. The legal limit is two micrograms.
He had not replaced the missing nearside mirror on his car and the coolant system was faulty, the court was told.
Judge Rebecca Poulet QC told him aggravating features were his "failure to have repairs to your vehicle and the fact that the bicycle would have been visible had the mirror been fitted and indeed should have been visible had you checked over your shoulder".
"You had two young children in the car and yet despite having this responsibility you were still habitually smoking cannabis.
"This was not just a momentary inattention, it was aggravated by your failure to check your vehicle and your ongoing cannabis habit."
McErlean pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs. He was disqualified from driving for two years with a 20-month extension and will have to retake his driving test.
Three days before the crash, university lecturer Mr Bassett had been enjoying his son Harvey's first birthday party.
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He was revived at the scene and taken to hospital but had suffered a traumatic brain injury, along with spine and neck injuries. His family took the decision to take him off life support and he died on October 19.
The court heard a series of emotional impact statements from the Bassett family which, the judge said, showed he was an "exceptional, intelligent and delightful" family man who was "in the prime of his life".
Mr Bassett's aunt Linda said he went to work by bike because he wanted to be home in time for Harvey's bath and that the toddler clearly misses his father, saying: "I think he looks out for his daddy a lot."
She added: "He was about to enjoy the very best of his life. He was loved by everyone who knew him and we will miss him for the rest of our lives."
Mr Bassett's widow Katie struggled through tears as she told the court she is "utterly grief-stricken", raising a child on her own when their plans had always been to have a bigger family together.
Being a single mother is "incredibly wearing, stressful and exhausting" and an increasingly stressful financial blow, she added.
Harvey will never know his "extraordinary father" and she has had to teach him "about death and grief before he has even been able to learn to talk", she said.
She added that her husband was a responsible driver and had always commented to her that a car is "a two-tonne weapon".
His mother Eileen described her son as a "doting father" who was "cruelly robbed" of his life by "the wanton behaviour of a reckless motorist".
McErlean, who told police he had smoked two joints the night before the crash, is "forever remorseful" and his "heart goes out" to Mr Bassett's family and friends, defence lawyer Simon Pentol QC said.
He said McErlean's car windows were misting up and his son was screaming because he thought the car was on fire when he took the "crazy" decision to pull over, which caused the crash.
Mr Pentol said: "He (McErlean) accepts that he did not drive within the requisite standard and that it was without a wing mirror."