Footage has emerged of Derby County star Mason Bennett being sick in a pub toilet hours before he and teammate Tom Lawrence crashed their car on a night out and then fled.
The Rams pair admitted to driving while over the drink drive limit and were today spared jail over the incident last month that ended teammate Richard Keogh’s season.
The court heard Bennet had a Jaegerbomb which made him feel ‘sick’ and that Lawrence had become ‘alcohol dependent’ after his mother died in May.
In a hearing at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Jonathan Taaffe initially considered a custodial sentence but later contented himself with handing down a stern rebuke and two 180-hour community orders.
Derby forward Tom Lawrence arrives at arrives at Derby Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday
Lawrence’s Derby team-mate Mason Bennett also arrived at court on Tuesday morning
Lawrence is surrounded by photographers and camera crews outside of court
Following the crash on 24 September, the players left the scene for between 15 minutes and 45 minutes, the court was told.
Lawrence, 25, provided a sample of 58 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millimetres of breath while Bennett, 23, blew 64 microgrammes per 100 millimetres of breath. The legal limit is 35mg.
The incident left club captain Richard Keogh with career-threatening injuries.
The accident occurred after Lawrence’s vehicle collided with the rear of Bennett’s after they drove home from a team bonding evening at The Joiners Arms pub in Quarndon.
Lawrence was carrying two passengers: Keogh and an 18-year-old academy player.
Lawrence and Bennett left the scene before returning 45 minutes later. Police were already at the scene when the pair got back to the wrecked vehicle.
Keogh was abandoned by his two team-mates at the scene of the crash before being rescued by paramedics who found him unconscious.
The duo pleaded guilty to drink driving after crashing their car on the A6 last month
Marianne Connally, prosecuting, said that Lawrence’s car had driven into the back of Bennett’s vehicle, adding: ‘It was entirely by chance that there were paramedics in the area at the time.’
Bennett’s team said that he ‘sincerely regrets his actions’, and called for him to be given a ‘low level community order’.
Lucy Whitaker, representing Bennett, told the court: ‘There is no evidence of a poor standard of driving on his part. No evidence it was his fault.’
During the team bonding session in a nearby pub, court heard how Bennett had ‘a Jaeger bomb shot which made him sick’, and had felt ‘peer pressured to have it’.
Ms Whittaker continued: ‘As far as he was aware there was no transport laid on…he had planned to get a taxi with a teammate but when it came to the time to go the teammate was procrastinating and talking to a teammate.’
Ms Whittaker said Bennett ‘lives less than three miles from where they were eating and drinking, he thought wrongly that he would be okay’.
She said he had been driving ‘entirely normally’ and that when he stopped at a junction he was ‘hit from behind’, which was ‘a complete shock’.
Having told the ambulance crew that he was ‘OK’, Ms Whittaker told the court that ‘he did then panic’ and took a different teammate in his vehicle.
Later that evening, Bennett and Lawrence met in a garage and then returned to the scene of the crash, the court was told.
District Judge Taaffe accepted that the actions were ‘wholly out of character’.
The prosecution withdrew a submission for a charge of failing to report an accident.
Keogh was found by emergency services in the backseat of team-mate Tom Lawrence’s crumpled Range Rover following the smash on Tuesday night
The Joiners Arms pub in Quarndon where the Derby players were drinking before the crash
District Judge Taaffe said: ‘It seems to me on the basis of the outline from the Crown that there is evidence of an unacceptable level of driving, there has clearly been a road traffic accident involving two vehicles driven by the defendants.
‘They left the scene…and injury has been caused and that to me is a significant aggravating factor.’
He went on: ‘Many would say they are perhaps fortunate not to have been dismissed for gross misconduct by the club.’
He later added: ‘It seems to me that at best I am looking at a community penalty in relation to this matter,
‘I am going to ask a probation officer to speak with you before I reach any determination of how this case will be resolved.
‘I have in mind at this stage a punitive sanction if it is to be attached to a punitive order or a sentence of imprisonment. All options remain open, including custody.’
A probation officer told the court that Lawrence had told her he thought he would lose his job if he was jailed.
She said he also said he thought prison would ‘mess with his head’.
A second probation officer said that Bennett was ‘extremely concerned about the prospect of a custodial sentence’.
She said the player told her he thought he would struggle with prison and he worried about the effect it would have on his four-year-old daughter.
The officer told the court that Bennett told her the offence was ‘out of character’ and he was ‘ashamed of his actions’.
She said: ‘He is well aware that he is seen by the public as a role model.
‘He stated that since the incident he had been full of regret.’
A map showing the route the players took from the Joiners Arms pub – and the crash site
The court heard that Derby County had fined the players six weeks’ wages.
Shaun Draycott, representing Lawrence, said references – including from Wales manager Ryan Giggs – testified to his client being a ‘decent young man who behaved out of character’.
Mr Draycott said: ‘What he did was wrong, was serious.’
He said Lawrence made a ‘gross error of judgement’ which is a ‘matter of extreme regret’.
The lawyer said: ‘He doesn’t duck and he doesn’t dive from his responsibilities. He made an incredible decision, frankly, to drive a vehicle knowing that he was in drink.
‘He damaged his vehicle, he damaged somebody else, he damaged his own reputation.’
Mr Draycott said Lawrence had become ‘quite dependent’ on alcohol since the May death of his mother, to whom he was very close.
He said his mother’s death ‘has impacted greatly on this young man’s psychological health.’
In mitigation, Mr Draycott referenced a psychological report of Mr Lawrence, which showed that the death of his mother had ‘impacted greatly on Mr Lawrence’s health’ and he needed alcohol ‘to remove the deep sense of sadness that he felt’. The report said that Mr Lawrence ‘uses alcohol as a means of boosting his confidence and has become quite dependent on it’.
In describing the incident itself, Mr Draycott said that Mr Lawrence had departed in a ‘moment of panic’ but had demonstrated ‘courage’ when returning.
Draycott concluded by recommending that Mr Lawrence be given a ‘sentence that falls within a community bracket’.
In delivering his verdict, Judge Taaffe told the court: ‘In due course credit will be given to you for your guilty pleas. I also accept that this is an isolated blemish upon your characters and you have shown genuine remorse for what has taken place.
‘You may struggle to accept this but you are extremely fortunate to be here today. You had been drinking, you have been involved in a road traffic collision that could have led to death and did lead to the injury of a passenger in at least one of the vehicles. When you are in control of a motor vehicle you are in control of a lethal weapon. The fact that you are uninjured is perhaps remarkable.
‘Your club have stood by you in circumstances when many employers would have dismissed you instantly for gross misconduct. That perhaps speaks to your characters and that this is an isolated incident.
‘You are both intelligent and talented young men who have brought shame on yourselves, your families, 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 of the supporters who pay their money to watch you will be incredulous that professional athletes during the season on a so-called team bonding day are drinking and then taking the decision to drive.
‘The aggravating factors of this matter are many. You had been drinking and you chose to drive when there was clearly no need to. An accident has occurred between the vehicles you were driving in unexplained circumstances.
‘The most aggravating factor of all is that you have left the scene when a fellow professional was injured in the back of one of the vehicles.’
He continued: ‘The readings in front of me in relation to drink driving are not the highest but it is fair to say they are considerably over the legal drink drive limit and you should have been nowhere near a motor vehicle.’
District Judge Taaffe gave both players the same sentence of 12 months community order, including a requirement of carrying out 180 hours of unpaid community work. Both men were disqualified from driving for two years, and must pay £85 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.
He told them both: ‘You are extremely fortunate to be here today. You had been drinking and have been involved in a road traffic collision that could have led to death.
‘You are both intelligent and talented young men who have brought shame upon yourselves, your family, your profession and your club.’
Mr Taaffe said Derby County fans would be ‘incredulous’ at what they had done.
‘This is an isolated blemish on your characters. And you have shown genuine remorse for what has taken place.’
But he told the defendants: ‘As I say often in these courts, when you are in control of a motor vehicle you are in control of a lethal weapon.’
He said: ‘The fact that you were uninjured is perhaps remarkable’.
‘Those who pay hard-earned money to watch you play regard you are role models – very well-paid role models.
‘And many of the supporters who pay their money to watch you will be incredulous that professional athletes on a so-called team-building day during the season are drinking and then taking the decision to drive.’
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 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, when you realised the magnitude of what had occurred’.