DPP v O'Connor [2018] VCC 1897

Sentence summary: Culpable driving

A drunken motorcyclist was jailed after he killed his friend while attempting to ride home following a night of heavy drinking.

Garry O’Connor, 56, pleaded guilty to one charge of culpable driving causing death and was sentenced to seven years, nine months jail with a non-parole period of four years and nine months.

After a day of drinking and playing golf with three friends on Saturday, 17 December 2017, the father of four decided to ride home on his motorcycle, with his 48-year-old friend Shaun Biggs as a passenger.

CCTV footage from the golf club’s carpark showed the pair refuse a ride home from friends who had consumed less alcohol.

The vision also highlighted how only one helmet was available, with the offender opting to wear it after he offered it to the victim who had declined.

The bike can be seen wobbling out of the car park.

Shortly before the incident, the pair were travelling along Humevale Road which suddenly became windy and while turning through a sharp left corner, they lost control and fell off the road.

It was accepted that seconds after losing control of the bike, the pair struck a letterbox and flipped.

The victim suffered fatal abdominal injuries and later died in hospital.

Three hours after the crash, the offender returned a blood-alcohol reading of 0.125.

The presiding judge said a combination of excessive speed, irresponsible decision making and alcohol consumption were aggravating factors when considering the sentence.

“There is so much senseless death and serious injury on our roads due to such grave errors of judgment,” the judge said.

“You presented a danger to every other road user that night, in your intoxicated state riding a vehicle which you had only had for three weeks and taking a bend too fast.”

The judge also noted the importance of denunciation when considering a sentence.

“This is so that others who are minded to take foolish risks of driving whilst affected by alcohol and at excessive speed, particularly in circumstances where they lack the relevant experience, will know that, if they cause injury or death, they will receive appropriate punishment,” the judge said.

The offender’s guilty plea and personal circumstances in relation to the recent passing of his wife meant a significant amount of mercy was necessary, the court heard.

The judge noted that with a history of hard work, strong family ties and limited criminal history, the offender was a strong chance to rehabilitate successfully.

However, the decision to drink heavily and then proceed to ride home when an opportunity to be driven home by friends who had consumed less alcohol meant a term of significant imprisonment was the only course of acceptable punishment.

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Page last updated: 4 May 2020