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Jail let-off for drink-drive footballers who fled crash

Wrecked: Lawrence’s
Range Rover after
hitting Bennett’s
Mercedes PICTURE: SWNS

TWO Derby County footballers who fled the scene after a drink-drive crash, leaving behind their seriously injured captain, have avoided jail.

Tom Lawrence, 25, and Mason Bennett, 23, had been on a team bonding day which ended in a pub when they were involved in an accident on the A6 near Allestree, Derby, a court heard.

Fears for daughter: Mason Bennett

Lawrence’s Range Rover went into the back of Bennett’s Mercedes at a roundabout before smashing into a lamppost just before midnight on September 24.

The pair fled, leaving captain Richard Keogh unconscious in the back of Lawrence’s wrecked 4×4.

They returned 45 minutes later and were arrested and breathalysed. Lawrence gave a reading of 58mcg of alcohol per 100ml of breath and Bennett 64. The legal limit is 35.

The crash left Keogh, 33, with a serious leg injury which could stop him playing for 15 months.

Worried about sack: Tom Lawrence

Yesterday, both players admitted drink-driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident when they appeared at Derby magistrates’ court.

District judge Jonathan Taaffe had warned them that a prison sentence was an option but the men walked free after the court heard of concerns they would struggle in custody.

A probation officer said Wales international Lawrence thought he would lose his job if he were jailed and it would ‘mess with his head’. A second probation officer said Bennett was ‘extremely concerned about the prospect of a custodial sentence’ and the effect it would have on his four-year-old daughter.

The judge issued both players with 12-month community orders of 180 hours unpaid work and banned them from driving for two years.

He told the pair, who have each been fined six weeks’ wages by their Championship club: ‘You are both intelligent and talented young men who have brought shame upon yourselves, your family, your profession and your club.

‘Those who pay hard-earned money to watch you play regard you as role models — very well-paid role models. And many supporters will be incredulous.’

Badly hurt: Captain Richard Keogh

The district judge said the most aggravating feature of the case was that ‘you have left the scene when a fellow professional was injured in the back of one of the vehicles’.

He said that the decision to leave may be seen as an act of panic or ‘perhaps to save your own skins’.