The Court of Appeal (President Maxwell, Justice Priest and Justice Hargrave) today, by majority, held that a sentence of three years and six months imprisonment for two dangerous driving offences (causing death and causing serious injury) was manifestly inadequate. The Court resentenced the offender to a total period of five years and six months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and six months.

The respondent, aged 29 at the time, had been driving at night at high speed, in a built-up area, whilst involved in an argument with her partner, a passenger in the front seat. Witnesses described the car moving ‘at a very fast speed’, ‘doing a big S pattern’ and having seen the car ‘swerve across the road’. She then lost control, mounted the footpath, colliding with and causing the death of a pedestrian who had been walking a dog. The passenger suffered serious injuries.

The offending was characterised as ‘a very serious example of the offence’ with the Court considering the respondent’s ‘moral culpability [was] high’. The Court found there were three factors which aggravated her moral culpability: the degree of speed (at least 97 km/h in a 60 km/h zone) in a built-up suburban area, the fact the behaviour put all road users in the vicinity at risk including her passenger, and her failure to slow down despite repeated warnings from that passenger.

The majority (President Maxwell and Justice Hargrave) held that, ‘taking all of the relevant circumstances into account, we are of the clear view that the sentences should be set aside as manifestly inadequate. They were wholly outside the range of sentences reasonably available for this offending’.

The Court also unanimously found that sentencing judges should not attempt to categorise cases into ranges of offending as this may lead judges to ‘unconsciously limit their instinctive synthesis’, or ‘obscure the essential nature of the sentencing task’. Instead, sentencing judges ought have regard to ‘relevantly comparable, and current, cases as “yardsticks”’.

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NOTE: This summary is necessarily incomplete. It is not intended as a substitute for the Court’s reasons or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment.

Author
Supreme Court of Victoria
Publisher
Supreme Court of Victoria
Date of Publication

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