Two Derby County footballers have been told they could go to prison after they admitted drink-driving over a crash which left their club captain seriously injured.
Wales international Tom Lawrence and Mason Bennett were detained by police after the incident on the A6 near Allestree, Derby, shortly before midnight on September 24.
Both players admitted drink-driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident when they appeared at Derby Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Midfielder Lawrence, 25, recorded a breath test reading of 58 microgrammes per 100ml and forward Bennett, 23, 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.
District Judge Jonathan Taaffee told the players that, as passengers were in the cars and the defendants left the scene, all options remained open, including a prison sentence.
He said: “I have to consider whether a custodial sentence is merited.”
The district judge added: “There is evidence of unacceptable levels of driving, although there is no charge in relation to that.”
Prosecutor 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.
She said Lawrence’s car then went across a roundabout and collided with “street furniture”.
The prosecutor said a paramedic crew witnessed the crash “entirely by chance” and came to the aid of two passengers left at the scene as the defendants fled. One man was treated for facial injuries at the roadside.She said Bennett left in his own car and the two passengers had been in Lawrence’s vehicle.
The prosecutor said the pair returned to the scene about 45 minutes later and were arrested by police.
Mr Taaffee adjourned the case for a short time so the players could talk to probation officers before sentence is passed.
When the hearing resumed, a probation officer told the court that 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”.
A second probation officer said that Bennett was “extremely concerned about the prospect of a custodial sentence”.
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.
The officer told the court that Bennett told her the offence was “out of character” and he was “ashamed of his actions”.
She said: “He is well aware that he is seen by the public as a role model.”
She added: “He stated that since the incident he had been full of regret”.
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.”
Mr Draycott 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 following the “alcohol-related incident”.
Both players also apologised.