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'No prison sentence can heal wounds' caused by Torquay driver high on drugs

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 01, 2013

  • crash scene: Police begin investigation work after the two-vehicle crash near Forches Cross

THE family of a man killed by a driver who was high on drugs say no prison sentence can heal the physical and emotional wounds caused by his 'idiotic' actions.

Graham Stone, 46, from Torquay, had potentially fatal levels of amphetamine in his body when he caused the head-on crash after which 91-year-old Douglas Hall died

Stone (pictured) was attempting to overtake the car in front of him on blind bend near Newton Abbot when he hit the car carrying Mr Hall which was travelling in the opposite direction.

Mr Hall, from Ilsington near Bovey Tracey, died in hospital the next day.

His wife, Patricia Hall, who was 76 years old at the time and was driving the car, broke her neck and doctors thought she would not survive.

But she was at Exeter Crown Court to hear the judge sentence Stone to seven years in jail for causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drugs.

Mrs Hall, who is now wheelchair bound and needs 24-hour care, said afterwards that 'no sentence could bring back' her loving husband.

It emerged during sentencing that Stone's car had failed its MOT only weeks before the crash and that he had ignored a dashboard light warning him of its faulty braking system.

The crash happened on April 23, 2011, on the A382 between Bovey Tracey and Newton Abbot.

Stone was driving his 10-year-old MG Rover south just past Stover School when he approached a downhill right-hand bend.

He pulled into the opposite lane to overtake a BMW but could not complete the manoeuvre before hitting Mrs Hall's Chevrolet Matiz.

Stone had crossed the single white line in the middle of the road which warns drivers not to overtake.

Prosecutor David Evans said Stone could not have seen what was coming around the bend.

The driver of the BMW recalled thinking: "You idiot, you're blind to oncoming traffic'.

The elderly couple, who had been out on a leisurely journey to meet friends, were freed from the wreckage of their car and flown to hospital.

Mr Hall suffered multiple fractures and bruising to his lungs and died the next day.

Mrs Hall lost all movement below her chest and must spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

The former leader of Newton Abbot Ramblers described her life as a 'living hell'.

Stone told witnesses at the scene: "It's my fault I was overtaking where I shouldn't have been."

A police officer at the scene said he appeared 'hesitant' and 'vacant'.

He passed a drink test but was later found to have 1.6milligrammes of amphetamine in a litre of his blood.

Mr Evans said this was a 'high concentration consistent with toxic and fatal cases of amphetamine intoxication'.

Robert Linford, mitigating, said Stone 'could not understand for the life of him the high level of amphetamine in his body'.

He added: "This was an error of judgement albeit one with terrible and catastrophic consequences."

He said Stone had been driving back to Torquay to pick up his girlfriend and children from the beach but was not speeding.

Stone, a carpenter, has a previous conviction for drink driving dating back to 1991.

He was also cautioned in 2006 for possessing amphetamine, and convicted of the same offence in 2007.

Judge Erik Salomonsen said: "There's no doubt in anybody's mind that the taking of drugs whilst driving can only cause the sort of grief that's been identified in this case.

"The taking of these drugs went towards the informing your decision when if you were in your right mind you would not have done so."

Stone was disqualified from driving for eight years.

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