A YOUNG Farmer who killed his best friend in a drink drive crash has been given a suspended jail sentence.

William Bennett was giving 23-year-old Jacob Chugg-White and three other friends a lift home after a three-hour drinking session at a pub in East Devon when he crashed his Volkswagen Golf in a country lane.

Mr Chugg-White, known as Chuggy, was thrown out of the car as it flipped over and suffered catastrophic injuries that led to him being declared dead at the scene.

All five of the occupants of the car were friends and members of Honiton Young Farmers Club who had met at Bennett’s home before he drove them 15 minutes to a nearby pub where they remained from 9pm until midnight.

The crash happened near Dunkeswell as they all returned to his home at Broadhembury shortly after midnight on July 23 last year. Bennett gave a blood sample a few hours later and a back calculation showed he was over the alcohol limit.

The lowest level of alcohol was 96 milligrammes in 100 litres of blood but it could have been as high as 110 mg. Bennett told police he was driving faster than usual at about 45 to 50mph and had flipped the car after losing control on a bend.

The victim had trained as a builder at a college in Taunton but given up his trade to take up farming and had a smallholding with 100 sheep. He had won awards for his husbandry and was about to start a placement on a sheep station in New Zealand to improve his knowledge.

He was a keen sportsman who had played rugby as a tight head prop for Sidmouth and had taken part and organised a Honiton Young Farmers Club charity cycling event in France.

His mother Sandra Chugg wrote a victim impact statement which was read out at Exeter Crown Court. It said she still cries for her son every day and feels as if her heart has been ripped out. She said his loss had ruined her life.

She wrote: “I cannot describe the loss. The loneliness is unbearable. It breaks my heart every day to think Jacob was taken away through the stupidity of drinking and driving.”

Bennett, 24, admitted causing death by careless driving while he was over the drink driving limit and was jailed for two years, suspended for two years by Judge Mr Justice Saini.

He was banned from driving for five years and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work and 30 days of rehabilitation activities and undergo 120 days of monitored alcohol abstinence.

The judge told him: “These offences are always serious because someone has lost their life. Not only will Jacob’s family have to live with that for the rest of their lives but you will have to live with it as well.”

Beth Rickerby, prosecuting, said CCTV from the pub where Bennett and his passengers had been drinking showed he had probably drink five beers and shared a short before driving home after midnight.

He and the other survivors, one of whom suffered minor injuries, were able to climb out of the wrecked car and found Mr Chugg-White unconscious on the edge of a ditch. It appeared he had not been wearing a seat belt in the back seat.

An expert calculated Bennett would have been well over the drink drive limit and it would had had a significant effect on his ability to drive safely.

Rachel Smith, defending, said Bennett is racked with remorse and wants to apologise for his actions. His remorse is so great that he has needed help for his mental health.

He and Mr Chugg-White had been best friends since school. He had tried to offer first aid at the scene but had become so upset that his parents had taken him home.

He is also a farmer who works on his father’s land and was a keen member of the Young Farmers, although he has suffered rejection by some of his friends as a result of this accident.

Miss Smith said the knowledge that his actions had led to loss of his best friend is a greater punishment than anything the court could impose and he remains devastated by it.

Honiton Young Farmers Club posted a tribute on its website after Chuggy’s funeral in August 2022 alongside a photo of him when he was in training for the charity bike ride in France.

It read: “Chuggy was the life and soul of Honiton Young Farmers Club. Tug of War captain, a keen stockman at the annual show and sales and most recently the chief road crew assistant for our charity bike ride.

“Your energy lit up the room and you always made us laugh. You have touched so many hearts within our club and you will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Chuggy, we will never forget you.”