Drug driver facing jail for North Devon lane death crash

Exeter Crown Court

Exeter Crown Court. - Credit: Archant

A drunk and drugged up driver has admitted causing the death of a popular young rugby player who died in a crash on a country road. 

Jake Melhuish was over the drink drive limit and had a high level of a metabolite of cocaine in his body when he lost control of his car and veered across the road before hitting a tree.  

His passenger Trevor Coates, aged 23, who lived in nearby Brompton Regis, died as a result of the accident on the B3227 near Blackerton Cross, East Anstey, on December 5 last year. 

A silver Volkswagen Bora driven by Melhuish crashed at around 5.20pm shortly after leaving a nearby farm yard. 

Mr Coates played as a flanker for Wiveliscombe Rugby Club and had previously played for Minehead Barbarians. Both clubs paid tribute to him as a wonderful young man who ‘lit up the clubhouse’. 

Melhuish, aged 22, of Sheldon, near Honiton, admitted causing Mr Coates’s death by careless driving while over the limit for alcohol and benzoylecgonine. 

Judge Peter Johnson adjourned sentence until next month, ordered a pre-sentence report but warned Melhuish he is likely to go straight to prison. He also imposed an interim driving ban. 

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He told him: “The fact I am ordering a report is no indication of sentence. Your expectation should be an immediate custodial sentence. 

“You will receive appropriate credit for your plea but even that will not bring you into a range of sentence where it can be suspended.” 

Mr Adrian Chaplin, prosecuting, said the case fell within the middle bracket of such offences under sentencing guidelines with a starting point of four years before credit for plea. 

He said Mr Melhuish’s mother Suzanne and partner Chloe both wish to read their victim personal statements at the sentencing hearing on September 2. 

He said: “There is no eyewitness account of his driving immediately before the impact. The defendant’s car went across the road and into a tree and into the position it ended up in. 

“All the physical evidence is explicable by Melhuish being at or under the speed limit. The last evidence of his driving before the collision was him leaving a farm yard where there is reference to tyre spin, albeit on gravel. 

“The evidence of those who followed and who came across the scene said Melhuish’s car went out of sight. We have no evidence to suggest anything other than a momentary lapse of concentration.” 

Mr Tom Bradnock, defending, said Melhuish had indicated his guilty plea at the magistrate’s court and was entitled to full credit of a third. 

He said: “He is under no illusions about the sentencing guidelines and the likely sentence.” 

After his death, Minehead Barbarians RFC chairman Graham Symes posted a tribute on Facebook. 

He said: “A wonderful young man, our condolences and our thoughts to Trevor’s family, friends and all at Wiveliscombe RFC from Minehead Barbarians RFC. RIP Trevor sadly missed but never forgotten.” 

Wiveliscombe RFC also posted a tribute on Facebook. It said: "A friend to all members of the club, Trev would light up the clubhouse with his infectious grin and all-round sunny disposition. 

"We were blessed to have had Trev come through our junior setup and as soon as he was old enough, he brought all his talent and super skillset to the senior sides in the club. 

"He was a 'one of a kind' player who had the ability to completely change a game, and it wasn’t uncommon to see him bursting from the back of a lineout through many defenders and even carrying a couple along the way. 

“He brought just as much joy off the pitch as he did on it, a great tourist, and even better friend to all. We are all lucky to have shared many good times and will remember him fondly.  

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Trevor’s family at this time." 

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