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Judgment handed down in Halket v The Queen

14 September 2016

The Court of Appeal (Acting Chief Justice Maxwell, Justice Redlich and Justice McLeish) today rejected an appeal against a sentence of seven years and six months’ imprisonment, imposed for two charges of negligently causing serious injury (by driving).

The Court noted that, in determining the appropriate sentence, the judge had followed a 2015 decision of the Court of Appeal (Harrison v The Queen ) which held that current sentencing for offences of this kind was ‘plainly inadequate’ and that sentences needed to be increased.   

Mr Halket was a professional truck driver. On the day of the offending, he was delivering truckloads of clay from a construction site to landfill. He was driving a tip truck and trailer with a combined weight of almost 16 tonnes.

Mr Halket was observed driving erratically over a distance of 2.4 kilometres. He was seen failing to give way to another truck, weaving in and out of the lane, driving on the verge and driving on the wrong side of the road. He was also observed failing to stop at a red light, forcing another vehicle to take evasive action.

The truck subsequently collided with a car which had been stationary for 60 seconds, waiting to turn. The female occupant was seriously injured and has since been confined to a wheelchair. Her husband’s injuries were less serious.

In the Court’s view, the sentencing judge was correct to describe Mr Halket’s negligence as ‘very high’, and the female victim’s injuries as ‘at the high end of seriousness’.  

The Court found that Mr Halket must have known that he was not in a fit state to drive. He was severely sleep-deprived and was in a state of ‘rebound fatigue’ after using methylamphetamine the night before.  The Court said that his conduct was -

properly to be regarded as involving a wilful and deliberate disregard of the fundamentals of road safety. The first, and most important, rule is that a person who is - or becomes - aware of his/her inability to control a vehicle properly should not begin - or continue - driving. The applicant’s wilfulness is highlighted by his persistence in driving a heavy vehicle in a state of obvious impairment over such a distance. His culpability was properly to be judged as very high.

Read the full judgment here on Austlii (External link)

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