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Indian drunk driver who tried to blame deadly crash on ‘best friend’ he killed is jailed for three years

An Indian drunk driver who killed his friend in high-speed crash in Newcastle and tried to blame the smash on the dead man has been jailed for at least three years.

Surinder Singh, 32, was three times over the legal blood alcohol limit when he drove to a bottle shop on November 5, 2022, with close friend Jujhar Singh in the passenger seat.

After reaching speeds of 130km/h he sped past a random breath test unit and smashed into a power pole outside The Royal Oak Hotel in Tighes Hill. The force of the impact threw Jujhar out of the car, killing him.

Surinder suffered only minor injuries, and told paramedics his friend had been driving, telling them “I begged him not to drive due to having a few drinks” and later embellishing the story in a police interview, The Newcastle Herald reported.

The Indian national, who had been in Australia for 18 months on a bridging visa before the crash, later admitted he was the driver but claimed he lied because he feared being bashed by police, and pleaded guilty to aggravated dangerous driving causing death.

Surinder also told a psychologist that he sped past the RBT site because he panicked due to his people having a history of being oppressed by police in his native country.

He was sentenced to six years’ jail with a non-parole period of three years and 1o months in Newcastle District Court on Friday by Judge Ian Bourke, who said Surinder had “disgraced the deceased’s name” by trying to pin the crash on him.

Judge Bourke also rejected the drunk driver’s excuse for lying, finding he was trying to avoid responsibility as he feared prosecution and being sent to jail.

Surinder said in a letter to the court that he had made the “worst decision of his life” and that he would “always be responsible for his best friend’s death”, but Judge Bourke said his apparent remorse needed to be balanced by the lies he told paramedics and police.

He found that Surinder had a high level of moral culpability for the “very serious” form of aggravated dangerous driving, due to him knowing he was too drunk to drive.

The court heard that the friends had drunk a bottle of scotch before asking another housemate to drive to buy them a vape because they were too intoxicated to get behind the wheel, but later went out anyway to buy a six-pack of beer.

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