A CORPORAL in the Royal Marines arrested at the scene of a crash in which another Royal Marine died has appeared before North Devon Magistrates' Court.
Corporal Andrew Mark Gibson, 34, of 24 London Street, Leek, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to drink driving in court on Friday.
He was arrested on June 26 this year at the scene of a crash where fellow Royal Marine Daniel Bird, 33, died after coming off his motorbike.
Gibson and Mr Bird had been having a heart to heart at the Marines' Chivenor base just a few hours previously.
David Barnes, for the prosecution, said police found Gibson stood next to his silver Volkswagen Bora, which had its hazard lights on, when they arrived at the crash at around 2.30am.
The officers asked where the crashed bike was and Gibson pointed it out to them. Police then noticed his speech was slurred and started to get out of the car. Gibson is alleged to have then got back into his car and driven off.
He was stopped 500 yards away and arrested. He gave a breath test sample and was found to have 72 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The limit is 35.
Tony Dart, for the defence, explained how Gibson had gone to see Mr Bird after arriving at the base having driven there from his home in Staffordshire. Mr Dar said: "Mr Bird called him and said he needed to chat.
"He had a few things on his mind so Mr Gibson went over for a drink and chat."
Having returned to his billet Gibson then heard Mr Bird's motorbike engine revving. Mr Bird had said he needed to get cigarettes.
Mr Dart said: "So my client got in his car with the aim of stopping his colleague and saying 'you silly twit, what are you doing?' He managed to catch him and told him to go back."
But having done so, Gibson then heard a loud bang and turned around to see Mr Bird's motorbike on the ground. He instinctively went over to see his friend and called the emergency services."
He then stayed with Mr Bird, "who was clearly dying", and at no stage, said Mr Dart, did Gibson attempt to hide his actions from police.
Mr Dart said: "By following his instincts to look after his colleague, who he has served abroad with, he put his friend's interests above his own and understands the consequences of that."
Colonel Dominic May, Gibson's commanding officer, said Gibson was a "firm and fair man" with an "insatiable work ethic". He was wounded while serving in Afghanistan and has served in Kosovo and Iraq.
He said it was no surprise Mr Bird, "with mind and life in turmoil", turned to Gibson.
Colonel May said: "Gibson did not act with disregard for the law, rather he went the extra mile for a Royal Marine brother."
Gibson still feels a great deal of sadness over Mr Bird's death, he said.
He also said Gibson would miss out on promotion, be transferred as a result and suffer other military punishments as a result of the conviction he was about to receive.
Presiding magistrate Ian Kingsbury said: "We have heard the mitigating circumstances of the incident, which we accept.
"We will be as lenient as possible with you as we realise you will face further punishment."
Gibson was banned from driving for 12 months, fined £250 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15.