‘Alcoholic’ driver jailed over death of Halifax Town director Debbie Charlton

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An “alcoholic” driver has been jailed for 56 months after a Valentine Day’s date ended in a car crash that killed Halifax Town director of business Debbie Charlton.

Ben Hulme’s previous three-year driving ban for being over the limit had only expired a couple of weeks before he got behind the wheel of Miss Charlton’s Vauxhall Adam after drinking two pints of Guinness and five pints of Peroni.

Ben Hulme.

Ben Hulme.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Hulme, of Exley Lane, Elland, took the keys from Miss Charlton, 44, because she had drunk about three glasses of red wine.

But as he drove downhill on the A58 at Triangle Hulme crashed into a parked VW Passat sending the Vauxhall Adam spinning anti-clockwise across the road into the path of an on-coming Mercedes containing a couple, their daughter and two of her friends.

Prosecutor David Lampitt told the court that Miss Charlton, who had previously held marketing and commercial roles with the Bradford Bulls, Leeds Rhinos and Guiseley AFC, suffered multiple skull fractures and died shortly after the collision.

Mr Lampitt revealed that a sample taken from Hulme at hospital showed a reading of 279 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood - more than three times the legal limit of 80 milligrams.

The court heard that Hulme had been caught drink-driving in the Channel Islands back in 2006 and in January 2012 he was given a three-year ban for being just under three-times the drink-drive limit.

Hulme, who said he had no recollection of the collision, pleaded guilty to causing Miss Charlton’s death by careless driving while over the prescribed limit and causing her death while uninsured.

The court heard that Hulme was “alcohol dependent” and barrister Oliver Jarvis said his client had spent the last ten years destroying his own life, his relationship and his career.

Mr Jarvis said: “Now he has destroyed somebody else’s life as well...he knows that.”

Mr Jarvis said Hulme had made a very stupid decision in his “befuddled state” because he thought it would be better if he drove.

He said it had been a second date between Hulme and Miss Charlton and she had met at The Fox pub that evening.

Mr jarvis said: “The remorse that the defendant expresses through me is heartfelt and genuine.”

“He is deeply, deeply sorry for what he’s done.

“He more than anyone knows that whatever sentence he gets that is not going to bring her back.”

Miss Charlton’s family sat in the jury box throughout the hearing and in a moving victim impact statement her mother Margaret described how she and her husband had been on holiday when they were told about her death.

She said her daughter was loved by so many people and she had so much more to give in the future.

About 500 people attended Miss Charlton’s funeral in March and her mum revealed that her friends in Australia and New Zealand held a memorial for her on the same day.

In the statement her mum described how everyone had been left with a big hole in their hearts and their lives.

Judge Peter Benson highlighted Hulme’s previous convictions for drink-driving as an aggravating feature of the case and he told the 35-year-old he would have been jailed for seven years if he had been found guilty after a trial.

But Hulme’s early guilty pleas meant his sentence had to be reduced to 56 months and he was also banned from driving for five years.

At the end of that ban Hulme will have to take an extended test before lawfully driving on the roads again.

Judge Benson told Hulme: “You are an alcoholic and you have battled with that now for some ten years.

“As Mr Jarvis has said it has blighted your life, but that’s something that you could and, indeed I accept, on occasions have tried to put right.

“On this occasion it led you to devastate the life of the victim in this case Debbie Charlton.”

The judge said the crash had resulted in a much-loved, lively and active young lady losing her life and that had been devastating for her family to accept.

Judge Benson, who expressed the court’s sympathy to Miss Charlton’s family, said Hulme had accepted his responsibility straight away and he was remorseful for what had happened.

Hulme will serve about half of the 56-month sentence and following his release from prison he will be on licence.