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Driver jailed for 10 years after killing ‘cherished’ 19-year-old

A 28-year-old man has been jailed for 10 years after killing a 19-year-old girl in a collision in Bridgwater.

Luke Hawkes, of Wadham Close, Bridgwater, was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court today (Friday 27 January) after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and failing to provide a specimen.

Hawkes’ sentence is among the first to take place under new sentencing guidelines which allows judges to give tougher sentences for dangerous and careless driving deaths, moving the maximum term from 14 years to life imprisonment for dangerous driving.

Hawkes was handed the sentence after killing 19-year-old Bethany Branson on Tuesday 8 November last year.

He has also been handed a driving disqualification for 12 years and seven months.

He had been driving a white Ford Transit van at high speed down the A38 Taunton Road when he drove through a red light and collided with two cars which had the right-of-way at a junction.

Bethany had been the passenger in the first car Hawkes collided with. She was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

The court heard how Hawkes showed no remorse for his actions to officers at the scene, refusing to complete a breathalyser or swab test for drugs and alcohol at the roadside.

He was recorded on body warn video saying: “I hope I killed someone. Oh well, you know what, I will get three, four, five years. Hopefully I killed them.”

Hawkes had previously been involved in a minor road traffic collision further up the A38 Taunton Road, near the Showground Roundabout, prior to the collision which killed Bethany.

He then left the scene towards Bridgwater, where he was then involved in the fatal collision.

A further three people, including Hawkes, sustained minor injuries.

19-year-old Bethany Branson has been remembered as a ‘beautiful’ young lady.

Senior investigating officer, Andrew Roebuck, and family liaison officer, Martin Farnell, said: “The family have shown exceptional courage and bravery in speaking so openly about Bethany, who is very clearly loved and cherished by all those who knew her.

“Bethany was a bubbly and outgoing young lady who had her entire life ahead of her, who dreamed of a career with animals and had a passion for rugby.

“We hope that this significant sentence for Hawkes gives the family some closure following the devastating loss of their daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin, goddaughter and friend.”

His Honour Judge Paul Cook said: “You can tell this was a prolonged, consistent and deliberate course of driving. it was obvious that you were drunk as I have seen the state of your intoxication on a number of videos.

“It was very clear that Bethany was a bubbly and infectious person, destined for a life of giving which has shattered the hearts of the family.

“You created a sea of carnage and then left. You were then heard saying ‘I’m glad she is dead, she deserved it’ and ‘Hopefully [you] killed someone’.”