Death-crash sentence attacked

A drink-driver who killed three Lowestoft school friends was jailed for eight-and-a-half years yesterday, provoking an angry response from parents who described their own ordeal as a “life sentence”.

A drink-driver who killed three Lowestoft school friends was jailed for eight-and-a-half years yesterday, provoking an angry response from parents who described their own ordeal as a “life sentence”.

Ben Morphey, of High Street, Yoxford, had been drinking with friends before the accident on the A12 near Blythburgh which claimed the lives of Carla Took, 18, and sisters Claire and Jennifer Stoddart, 15 and 18.

The teenagers were returning from a concert in Ipswich when the car driven by Morphey veered onto the wrong side of the road and hit their car head-on in the early hours of July 1 last year.

Ipswich Crown Court heard the 22-year-old could have drunk almost twice the legal amount of alcohol before causing the crash, which also killed two passengers in his own car.

Judge Neil McKittrick told him the accident was caused by a “clear, gross error of judgement”, but he would be credited for his guilty plea.

He also disqualified Morphey from driving until 2017 and said he would serve half of his sentence in custody.

Most Read

Following the hearing, Carla's parents Angela and David Took, of Oulton, near Lowestoft, criticised the sentence as “inadequate”.

“We were hoping this court case would send out a clear message to the public

that there are serious consequences if you drink and drive, but I don't think it has,” said Mrs Took.

“He has been given eight-and-a-half years but we have been told he will only serve four. It will never be enough. He has killed our daughter, and given us a life sentence.

“It has been the worst year of our lives. We have had all the firsts - the first birthday without her, the first Christmas without her, and this Sunday we are at the end of that year.”

Morphey, an Army aircraft technician based at Wattisham, pleaded guilty to five counts of causing death by dangerous driving on June 1 - just three days before his trial was due to begin.

Mr Took said: “This was a clear-cut case, and he should have been tried before Christmas. The evidence was stacked against him.”

Sgt Steve Knight of Lowestoft police said: “I think it is a fair sentence and the judge has clearly taken all the evidence into account.

“Whatever the sentence is it will never compensate any family for their loss.”

Phil Stoddart, father of Carla's friends Claire and Jennifer, was not at yesterday's hearing, and chose not to comment on the sentence.

Morphey's passengers Simon Bonner, 40, and Kim Abbott, 41, also died as a result of the accident.

The court heard Morphey, of High Street, Yoxford, had been handed the car keys by Mr Bonner after a night out drinking, and was chosen to drive as he had had the least to drink.

John Madden, for Morphey, said: “He accepts that he had been drinking that night. He accepts full responsibility, and indeed his life has been devastated by this incident, although it cannot be compared to the loss of the families of those that died.”

Mr McKittrick said there was no suggestion Claire Stoddart, who had been driving the other car involved in the collision, had done anything wrong.

Benjamin Britten High School will open a memorial garden in memory of the three teenage pupils this Sunday, on the first anniversary of the crash.