A motorist who fled the scene of a car crash which killed his friend has been jailed for eight years.
Zax Ross-Harris, 22, of Allway Avenue, Paulsgrove, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Luke Fletcher by dangerous driving in Southwick.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard how Ross-Harris was driving his cousin’s Nissan Almera on the B2177 at around 11.15pm on January 23, 2016, when he lost control of the car and collided with a tree.
Luke, 19, from Portsmouth, who was travelling in the back of the car, was taken to hospital but died as a result of his injuries.
His other friend travelling in the back, a 19-year-old man from Emsworth, suffered serious injuries.
The court was told that Ross-Harris fled the scene and his cousin Danny Ross-Barringer, who was also in the car, initially told police that he was driving.
However, extensive investigations, which included reviewing hours of CCTV evidence, analysis of several mobiles phones, detailed forensic testing and lengthy interviews with both defendants, established that Ross-Harris was driving the vehicle at the time of the collision and Ross-Barringer was the front seat passenger.
Extensive forensic work, on what was a difficult scene due to the car flipping on impact, proved key to this.
The seatbelt for the front seat passenger side had fabric melted into it, which matched that of Ross-Barringer, proving her was not driving.
This was further backed up with hairs found on the driver’s seatbelt, which matched the DNA of Ross-Harris.
Ross-Harris also pleaded guilty to causing serious injury by dangerous driving, causing death by driving unlicensed and causing death by driving uninsured.
He was jailed for a total of eight years.
The judge sentenced him to eight years in prison for causing death by dangerous driving, three years for causing serious injury by dangerous driving and one year each causing death by driving unlicensed and causing death by driving uninsured. These sentences will all run concurrently.
He was also disqualified from driving for 14 years.
The court also heard that at the time of the collision Ross-Barringer had been teaching his cousin how to drive despite the fact that neither of them had a driving licence or insurance and was encouraging Ross-Harris to drive dangerously.
Ross-Harris had also been drinking heavily earlier in the evening and was likely to have significantly affected his ability to drive.
As a result Ross-Barringer, 25, of Ludlow Road, Paulsgrove, was charged with aid and abet causing death by dangerous driving, aid and abet causing serious injury by dangerous driving, aid and abet causing death by driving unlicensed and aid and abet causing death by driving uninsured. He pleaded guilty to all the offences.
He was jailed for a total of six years.
The judge sentenced him to six years in prison for aid and abet causing death by dangerous driving, three years for aid and abet causing serious injury by dangerous driving, and one year each for aid and abet causing death by driving unlicensed and aid and abet causing death by driving uninsured. These will all run concurrently.
He was also disqualified from driving for 13 years.
After the sentencing Luke’s mum Sarah Hiscutt paid tribute to her son.
She said: “Luke was one of a kind. He was such a strong and loving person who was always there for everyone.
“He was growing into a fine young man, full of life, dreams, ambition and a zest for life. He had everything to live for and wanted so much from life.
“He had a real talent for acting, dancing and singing. I wish he was here for his single ‘Heart of Stone’ that has been released.
“He was an amazing brother to Adam and Robyn, a loyal friend to all who needed him, and the best son any mother could ask for. “There are no words for how much he is missed now and every day. He was my rock.
“Although justice has been done today, no sentence will ever be long enough.
“They will get their freedom back, I will never get my son Luke back.”
Speaking after the sentencing Sergeant Mark Furse, from the Serious Collision Investigation Unit, part of the Joint Roads Policing Unit, added: “This proved to be a complex investigation but thanks to the hard work and dedication of my team we were able to ensure Mr Ross-Harris faced the consequences of his actions despite his desperate attempts to escape justice.
“Luke’s death could have been so easily avoided and that is what’s so tragic about this case.
“Had it not been for the irresponsible decision by Mr Ross-Harris to get behind the wheel that evening, knowing he did not have the legal right to do so, Luke would be alive today and his family would have been spared the heartbreak they are living with every day.
“And rather than advising his cousin not to drive, Mr Ross-Barringer actively encouraged his cousin to ignore the dangers and take the driver’s seat.
“I hope that this case acts as a warning to other young people that playing around in cars and showing off in front of your friends may seem like fun but the consequences can be fatal. It is not worth the risk.”