DPP v Neale [2020] VCC 2181

Sentence summary: Culpable driving

A dangerous driver was jailed for three years after his vehicle that was not suitable to be driven crashed and killed a man.

Joshua Neale, 20, pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable driving by gross negligence after the death of 26-year-old Matthew O’Donoghue and was sentenced to three years jail with a non-parole period of one year.

At the time of the collision, visibility was low because it was early in the morning, and the P-plate offender was driving a 1981 Toyota LandCrusier with no working headlights that he had been rebuilding.

The head-on collision took place on Heathcote-Rochester Road, at the end of a sweeping bend in an area known as the S-Bends which is approximately five kilometers south of Rochester at about 6.40am.

The area carries a 100km/h speed limit and the victim died at the scene. It was not believed that either driver was speeding at the time.

The victim had been attempting to legally overtake another vehicle at the time of the collision.

The presiding judge said a number of victim impact statements highlighted the grief and the pain the offending had brought to the friends and family of the deceased.

The judge also accepted police evidence which deemed the victim was unlikely to have been able to see the offender’s car coming due to it not having functional headlights.

When deciding upon the sentence, the judge said there was a need to balance the gravity of the offending with all of the relevant circumstances.

“I take into account the following factors, at the time of collision you were on the correct side of the road, not travelling at an excessive speed and you had travelled approximately 400 metres in a straight line on the relevant road before the collision occurred,” the judge said.

However, general deterrence was of lesser importance due to the youthfulness of the offender and because he had been deemed of good character, the court heard.

The Court also heard the offender had suffered severe physical and mental injuries as a result of the crash and had since been diagnosed with severe depression.

“Any sentence may weigh more heavily on you than on a person with normal health,” the judge said.

“In so commenting and as submitted by your counsel, such an opinion enlivens Verdins principles 5 and 6 and I have taken this into account in moderating the sentence to be imposed.”

An early guilty plea and the belief that the offending was more likely due to immaturity rather than criminality, also helped reduce what would have been a harsher sentence.

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Page last updated: 16 December 2020