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Briton jailed for causing crash in south of France while drink driving

The collision, in July 2019, resulted in life-threatening injuries to a motorbike rider and his passenger

A British man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison – nine suspended – following a collision he caused while under the influence of alcohol Pic: Zolnierek / Shutterstock

A 30-year-old British man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison – nine suspended – after causing a serious collision with a motorcyclist in Alpes-Maritimes while under the influence of alcohol. 

Nice Matin reports that Toby Smeaton and two other British people were returning to a holiday home in Théoule-sur-Mer after a dinner and drinks on July 12, 2019. 

Towards 23:30, Mr Smeaton decided to overtake the two cars in front of him in a “hazardous manoeuvre,” according to an expert report on the crash. 

By moving out onto the other side of the road, Mr Smeaton found that he was heading straight for an oncoming motorbike, which was carrying two people. 

Mr Smeaton swerved to the left but collided head-on with the motorbike, whose rider and passenger sustained life-threatening injuries, Nice Matin reports. 

The rider, who is a volunteer firefighter, was airlifted to Nice’s Hôpital Pasteur by helicopter, and his companion also spent several weeks in hospital. 

Defendant wrote letter to say he would like to come to speak with victims in future

Mr Smeaton was found to have 0.56mg of alcohol for each litre of air breathed out when breathalysed. The legal limit in France is 0.25mg/l. 

Mr Smeaton, who is from Doncaster, was not present at the court in Grasse while he was tried on Tuesday, January 4 for causing unintentional injury through drink driving.

One of the victims of the crash said during the trial that: “I would have preferred that the gentleman were here…” but his lawyer said that this was impossible due to the restrictions of the pandemic. 

The lawyer did however have a letter from the defendant which stated that he would like to come to speak with the victims once the Covid situation allows. 

Nice Matin states that the public prosecutor did not take Mr Smeaton’s absence as a sign of “contempt” but perhaps a “certain casualness” and recommended a prison sentence of two years, with nine months suspended. 

The public prosecutor is entitled to share their opinion on the sentence which should be given, but the court does not have to agree, and so a term of 18 months in prison, nine suspended, was eventually decided. 

Mr Smeaton’s lawyer said that this was “the worst thing that had ever happened” to their client. 

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