A man who was drunk and driving while disqualified when he crashed, killing his teenage girlfriend, has been spared a prison sentence because of his injuries.

Appearing in the Gisborne District Court, with Judge Geoff Rea sitting via audio-visual link from a courtroom in Napier, Hone Sadlier, 24, was instead sentenced to 10 months' periodic detention

He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of driving while disqualified and causing the death of Nui-o-Te Rangi Rangihuna (Bristowe) while driving with a blood-alcohol level of 168mg per 100ml of blood - more than twice the legal limit.

The crash happened near the East Cape township of Te Araroa early on October 16, 2014.

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The car Sadlier was driving had veered across a State Highway 35 bend, hit a bank and come to rest on its side in a ditch, where it was discovered by another motorist.

The man in the vehicle, Sadlier, was reported to have serious and multiple head injuries, and the young woman only moderate injuries, but she died eight days later in Waikato Hospital.

The sentencing took place on Friday after Judge Rea said in the Gisborne court last year that he was not prepared to sentence Sadlier without more information about his medical vulnerability from injuries he suffered in the accident.

The judge reiterated concerns that Sadlier might not be able to avoid conflict in the prison environment, that he could be susceptible to assault, and that he might not be able to sustain any further injury to his head.

The judge said that with Sadlier driving just five weeks after being disqualified for seven months, he would "almost certainly" have been sent to prison , but it was "one of those rare cases" where a court's responsibility to the community could be met by a sentence of home detention instead of imprisonment.

But the judge warned that it was a "benevolent sentence", and if Sadlier, who was also disqualified from driving for a further five years, was to "throw" it back in the face of the court and offend again there would be no further allowance for his situation.