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Fatal crash driver "had simply staggering level of drugs in body"

Christopher Backhouse
Christopher Backhouse

A driver who crashed a car leaving his friend dead had a "simply staggering" level of drugs in his body amounting to 130 times the new drug-drive limit, UK police have said.

Christopher Backhouse, now 26, was driving a Renault Clio back from a festival in Wiltshire when it left the road and ended up in a ditch, killing his friend and passenger Alexander Baron, 22.

After Backhouse was jailed for two years on Friday, North Yorkshire Police said the reading for MDMA in Backhouse's body was potentially fatal and the highest the force had ever recorded. Officers said this was one of a cocktail of drugs the defendant had consumed.

A force spokesman said Backhouse had taken a large volume of a range of illegal drugs at the music festival over the course of a weekend before agreeing to drive the 270-mile journey home to Scarborough with Mr Baron and some other friends as his passengers.

He said officers were alerted to reports of a car leaving the A64 near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, on August 11 2014. Police attended and Backhouse's car was found overturned in a ditch. Mr Baron was pronounced dead at the scene.

Backhouse, from Burniston, Scarborough, admitted causing death by driving whilst unfit through drugs.

Police confirmed he was sentenced to two years in prison and was given a three-year driving ban at York Crown Court.

The crash happened before the introduction of drug-driving limits last year. The new limits were deliberately set at very low levels.

Police officer Zoe Billings said: "He (Backhouse) was well aware of the concoction of drugs he had taken over the weekend. By agreeing to drive and be in control of the car, Backhouse gave no consideration to the safety of his friends and passengers and put their lives at risk.

"The gamble he made very sadly resulted in the death of a young man.

"The amount of drugs found in Backhouse's system was simply staggering - the highest reading our force has ever seen. How he thought he was fit to drive is just beyond comprehension."

Mr Baron's family said in a statement: "Initially we had formed the opinion that the accident was exactly that, an 'accident', however as the police investigation progressed it became clear things were very different.

"To learn that the driver of the car had been found with a very high level of an illegal substance in his system was difficult to comprehend, the thought of someone being so irresponsible and the fact that this accident could have been so easily prevented, infuriates us."

The statement went on: "The new drug drive laws were not in place at the time of Alex's death, but to learn that the driver's level was in excess of 100 times the new drug drive limit shows the severity of his ways."

It said: "Alex will not be forgotten by any of his friends and family who loved and cared for him so very much.

"His passing has left a huge void in so many lives that can never be filled. We would like everyone that knew Alex to remember him for his fun loving nature and recall him with fond memories."