A family is crusading for justice after the drink-driver who killed their son got off with a £170 fine.
There were no witnesses when neighbour Gursharan Sira struck George Beresford, 21, as he walked home.
So Sira, 26, could not be accused of anything more serious then drink-driving and he was not imprisoned.
Now graduate George’s family is campaigning for a law change so every drink-driver who takes a life is jailed.
It is urging Sunday People readers to take part in a Government online survey to increase pressure to toughen the law so that no other families endure their ordeal.
Sira also got a 28-month driving ban and was told to do 180 hours unpaid work during a 12-month community order.
But George’s dad Mark said: “The sentence was no more punishment than that given to someone pulled over for a broken brake light and breathalysed.”
Mum Shaena added: “A jail term of two to seven years would at least be a way for society to punish a driver responsible for another person’s death in this way.”
Tragedy struck just yards from the family home in Purley, near Croydon, south London, on February 7 last year.
Sporty, popular George had just completed a maths degree at Exeter university and was two weeks into his first job at a City of London bank.
He was struck as he returned from a night out with old schoolfriends.
Shaena, 45, said: “There was a knock on the door at 2.45am. We thought it was George, forgetting his key.
“Instead, it was a policeman who told us, ‘Your son has been in an accident. He has a head injury’. The officer drove us to a neurological hospital, St George’s, in Tooting.
“When he put his blue light and sirens on for the journey, we knew it must be very serious.
“A doctor told us the head injury was so severe and his brain so swollen they wouldn’t normally operate because there was little chance of success. But he was young and strong, so they were willing to try.
“We walked alongside George on his trolley as he was wheeled for surgery. He had a bandage round his head but otherwise he looked normal and peaceful, like he was sleeping. All the way down the corridors, I kept telling him that we loved him and were proud of him.”
While Shaena and contracts manager Mark, 50, waited outside the operating theatre, police told them the motorist would be charged with drink-driving.
Shaena said: “Anger washed over me. Our son was fighting for his life, yet none of this need have happened if only that driver had done the right and responsible thing and taken a taxi back home.”
Surgery was unsuccessful and George, eldest of three children, was kept on life support while his grandparents flew home from holiday in Thailand and a friend came from Australia to say goodbye.
Mark said: “George’s university mates travelled from all over the country to be there for him.
“In the first 24 hours, he had about 100 visitors.”
Shaena added: “That time was very precious to us, holding his hand, chatting to him. But there was never any response.”
After a second scan showed no sign of brain activity, life support was switched off on February 10, three days after the accident.
Shaena said: “I sat and felt his heart stop beating. It was a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
More than 500 mourners attended the funeral at a local Catholic church.
The Beresfords channelled their grief into raising more than £16,000 from donations and sponsored events for St George’s hospital and several charities.
The family expected serious charges to be laid against the driver.
But in August, the Crown Prosecution Service told them that with no witnesses to the accident, no CCTV and no other evidence to support charges of dangerous driving or careless driving, the driver could only be accused of drink-driving.
Mark said: “It was devastating news.
“If somebody gets behind a wheel when they’re over the alcohol limit, that’s careless or dangerous driving in itself. It shouldn’t be necessary to prove anything else.”
Shaena said: “We went straight to our local MP. He was as shocked as us.
“We also appealed against the CPS decision. But we were told that with the law as it currently stands, there was no way to charge the driver with any further offence.”
In October, Sira, of Honister Heights, Purley, two streets from the Beresfords’ home, appeared before Croydon magistrates and admitted drink-driving.
Two hours after the accident, he gave police a reading of 42 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 micrograms.
Mark was in court and said: “I left horrified. The sentence was the maximum the law allows yet it was a slap on the wrist.
“To us, it felt like the driver who took the life of our son had just been let off.
“Afterwards, everyone we knew was deeply shocked and kept saying, ‘How can that be right?’ Not one person believed that the punishment fitted the crime.”
The family wants the law to be changed so that jail sentences are given automatically to drink-drivers who kill.
Shaena said: “As far as we are concerned, careless driving starts the moment you drive the car and you are over the limit.
“You have knowingly been out drinking and got behind the wheel. You should face the consequences for that action.
“A custodial term should be the minimum, though a sentence of 100 years wouldn’t be justice for the loss of our George.”
The Government has launched a consultation over the law relating to dangerous driving .
Last month, the Beresfords met Justice Minister Sam Gyimah, one of the ministers in charge of the consultation.
Mark said: “We found him sympathetic. He realises something must be done.
“After the meeting, he asked us to submit a written proposal and he pledged to consider it seriously during the review.
“We are now working on our letter.
“George had been the perfect son – sociable, hard-working and enthusiastic about football, golf and surfing.”
Shaena added: “When George passed away, he had his whole life in front of him. Losing him has devastated our family. He was a young person who had so much to offer this world and his death needs to make a difference.
“To anyone reading our story, we ask them to help us to change the law by taking part in the government’s online survey. Every reader who contributes will increase the chance that the law will be changed so that no other family goes through this terrible ordeal.
“To anyone tempted to drink and drive over the New Year, we urge them, ‘Don’t do it’.
“Walk home, take public transport or get a taxi. Drinking and driving costs lives and decimates families. Do you really want that on your conscience?”
Croydon South Tory MP Chris Philp said: “When Mark and Shaena told me of George’s death and what followed, I was astonished.
“I phoned the case manager at the CPS and the investigating officer to check this is really how it works. I was told that was all they could do because of how the law currently stands.
“Driving over the limit is one of the most reckless things you can do. Injuries or deaths caused by drink-driving are senseless and cause anguish and grief for entire families.
“But currently the law allows people to get away with killing while drunk behind the wheel, if carelessness as well as being drunk is not proven. We need to close this loophole and ensure families get justice for their loved ones.”
Penalties a court can dish out for drink-driving
The drink-driving rules in Britain can see a driver jailed for up to six months.
Driving or attempting to drive while over the legal limit can also bring an unlimited fine and a driving ban of at least a year.
Scotland cut its drink-drive limit in 2014 to 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, compared to 80mg in England and Wales.
Causing death by careless or dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol is a more serious offence and carries up to 14 years in jail and a two-year ban. The sentence could rise to life in some cases as ministers review the law later this year.
In Germany, new motorists face fines and bans for having any alcohol in their blood.
Canada has an offence of “dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death” which carries a 14-year jail term. If the driver has alcohol in his system, he could face life.
– The Beresfords are donating their fee for this interview to the road safety charity Brake. They urge readers to take part in the consultation, which closes on February 1.
Go to consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/driving-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury.