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Ex Ipswich Town loan star Tom Lawrence pleads guilty to drink driving

PUBLISHED: 13:58 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:07 15 October 2019

Tom Lawrence leaves Derby Magistrates' Court where he and team-mate Mason Bennett avoided prison after they admitted drink-driving  Picture: JACOB KING/PA

Tom Lawrence leaves Derby Magistrates' Court where he and team-mate Mason Bennett avoided prison after they admitted drink-driving Picture: JACOB KING/PA

Former Ipswich Town loanee Tom Lawrence has been banned for two years for drink-driving.

Tom Lawrence scored nine goals for Ipswich Town on a season-long loan in 2016/17  Picture: STEVE WALLERTom Lawrence scored nine goals for Ipswich Town on a season-long loan in 2016/17 Picture: STEVE WALLER

The 2016/17 loanee and Welsh international, aged 25, now with Championship side Derby County, and Derby team-mate Mason Bennett, 23, avoided prison after they admitted drink-driving over a crash which left their club captain seriously injured.

The pair were arrested by Derbyshire police after a collision on the A6 near Allestree, Derby, shortly before midnight on Tuesday, September 24.

Both admitted drink-driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident when they appeared at Derby Magistrates Court today (Tuesday October 15).

District Judge Jonathan Taaffe had warned them a prison sentence was an option, but they walked free after probation services told the hearing of concerns they would struggle in custody.

The court heard Tom Lawrence had become The court heard Tom Lawrence had become "dependant" on alcohol following the death of his mother but had received good character references, including from Wales boss Ryan Giggs Picture: JACOB KING/PA

He gave both men a 12-month community order, ordering them to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, and banned them from driving for two years.

The judge told them: "You are extremely fortunate to be here today.

"You had been drinking and have been involved in a road traffic collision that could have led to death.

"You are both intelligent and talented young men who have brought shame upon yourselves, your family, your profession and your club."

Police escort Derby County footballers Tom Lawrence (far left) and Mason Bennett (far right) from Derby Magistrates' Court where they were banned for two years for drink-driving. Picture: JACOB KING/PAPolice escort Derby County footballers Tom Lawrence (far left) and Mason Bennett (far right) from Derby Magistrates' Court where they were banned for two years for drink-driving. Picture: JACOB KING/PA

Mr Taaffe said Derby County fans would be "incredulous" at what they had done.

Lawrence was an instant hit with Town fans during his season-long loan with the Blues, scoring nine goals in 34 league games.

The midfielder recorded a breath test reading of 58 microgrammes per 100ml and forward Bennett recorded a level of 64. The legal limit is 35.

Club captain Richard Keogh suffered a serious leg injury in the crash, involving a Range Rover Sport and a Mercedes, and could be ruled out for the rest of the season.

Tom Lawrence arrives at Derby Magistrates' Court for the hearing  Picture: JACOB KING/PA WireTom Lawrence arrives at Derby Magistrates' Court for the hearing Picture: JACOB KING/PA Wire

Earlier the court heard from a probation officer, who said Lawrence had told her he thought he would lose his job if he were jailed.

She said he also said he thought prison would "mess with his head".

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A second probation officer said Bennett was "extremely concerned about the prospect of a custodial sentence".

Derby County footballer Mason Bennett arrives at Derby Magistrates' Court where he and Tom Lawrence were appearing on charges of drink-driving Picture: JACOB KING/PADerby County footballer Mason Bennett arrives at Derby Magistrates' Court where he and Tom Lawrence were appearing on charges of drink-driving Picture: JACOB KING/PA

She said the player told her he thought he would struggle with prison and he worried about the effect it would have on his four-year-old daughter.

Marianne Connally, prosecuting, told the court both players were driving home at about 11.30pm following a night out at the Joiner's Arms pub in Derby.

Ms Connally said Lawrence's vehicle went into the rear of Bennett's car, causing some damage, before going across a roundabout and colliding with "street furniture".

The prosecutor said a paramedic crew witnessed the crash and came to the aid of two passengers left at the scene in Lawrence's vehicle as the defendants fled.

One man was treated for facial injuries at the roadside.

Bennett left in his own car before the pair returned to the scene about 45 minutes later and were arrested by police, the prosecutor said.

Lucy Whitaker, defending Bennett, said at one point in the night her client had a Jagerbomb shot bought for him which made him sick.

Ms Whitaker said her client was driving "perfectly normally" on the way home and it was a "complete shock" to him when a car went into the back of him at the Burley Hill roundabout, near Allestree.

Ms Whitaker said: "He did then panic."

She said that, after he left the scene, he got a call from Lawrence asking him to pick him up from a garage and they returned to the roundabout.

Shaun Draycott, representing Lawrence, said references - including from Wales manager Ryan Giggs - testified to his client being a "decent young man who behaved out of character".

Mr Draycott said: "He damaged his vehicle, he damaged somebody else, he damaged his own reputation."

He said Lawrence had become "quite dependent" on alcohol since the death of his mother, to whom he was very close.

He said his mother's death "has impacted greatly on this young man's psychological health."

Earlier this month, the football club fined the pair the "equivalent of six weeks' wages" and condemned them for bringing the club into disrepute.

Both players also issued public apologies.

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