A PROMISING young golfer jailed for causing the death of a retired university lecturer by dangerous driving had his “unduly lenient” sentence extended by top judges yesterday.
Richard Bentham, 22, was “showing off” in his BMW 320 coupé and was driving at speeds up to 128mph before it ploughed into Dr Graham Howells’ camper van on the A449 near Usk in October 2011.
Bentham, a graduate of the Newport Celtic Manor golf academy, who last year took part in qualifiers for the Open Championship, admitted causing death by dangerous driving at Cardiff Crown Court last year.
In November 2012, Bentham, of The Vineyard, Monmouth, was jailed for two years and banned from the road for four years.
But the sentence was considered far too low by Solicitor General Oliver Heald, who referred the case to three senior judges to be looked at again.
Yesterday Lady Justice Rafferty, Mr Justice Keith and Mr Justice King, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court, agreed and increased it to three years.
The court heard Dr Howells, 67, a grandfather of four who lectured in Cardiff and Swansea, had spent the previous 16 years in South America and had recently retired from his job as English professor at the University of Brasilia.
Bentham initially claimed he had been driving at “roughly 60mph” at the time of the accident and that Dr Howells’ van was showing no rear lights, so that he failed to spot it.
But CCTV revealed he had been speeding for 11km before the collision, hitting a top speed of 128mph and going at over 90mph when he hit the professor’s van, which was properly lit.
This forced it off the road and up a grass verge where it hit a stanchion. Dr Howells died from multiple injuries and trauma.
Lawyers for Bentham said his sentence should not be increased given the impact of jail on his budding career, and cited several positive character references.
But Lady Justice Rafferty said he had been “showing off” and dismissed those arguments, adding: “The speed was grossly excessive at the time of the collision.
The grossly excessive speed was the issue. Dr Howells’ family will never welcome him back.
“I propose to quash the sentence of two years – it is unduly lenient – and I substitute one of three years.”