DPP v Panayides [2019] VCC 1849

Sentence summary: Culpable driving

A speeding driver who killed a cyclist on a busy Melbourne street and walked away from the scene was jailed for eleven years.

Michael Panayides, 28, pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing death, recklessly causing injury and failing to assist after a fatal accident, which took place on Chapel St, South Yarra in August 2018.

Dutch cyclist Gitta Scheenhouwer, 27, died after the offender struck her with a stolen Mercedes-Benz SUV at 80km/h in a 40km/h zone.

The offender was jailed for eleven years with a non-parole period of eight and a half years.

The offender was trying to overtake another vehicle when he collided with Ms Scheenhouwer’s bike and several parked cars.

Ms Scheenhouwer died at the scene while the force of the collision pushed a parked car into another vehicle, seriously injuring an 81-year-old passenger.

In sentencing the offender, the presiding judge said they had shown “blatant disregard for life”.

The Court heard Ms Scheenhouwer had been on a working holiday in Melbourne at the time of her death, which had devastated family and friends.

Victim impact statements described “an energetic, positive, adventurous woman with a lust for life”, the judge said.

“Each of your victims has suffered a profound sense of needless loss at your hands”.

The judge said “frightening” CCTV video of the crash left no doubt that the offender’s culpability was in the mid-to-high range.

“He fled the scene and proffered no assistance at all, nor made any enquiries as to any injuries or the state of any persons at the scene of the accident, which he had caused,” the judge said.

The court heard the offender had a difficult childhood and suffered from drug addiction.

He admitted to using heroin the night before the fatal crash.

The offender had a significant criminal record and had been released from prison nine months before the fatal crash.

The judge took the offender’s personal circumstances into account and acknowledged that at due their relatively young age, there was a risk of institutionalisation.

The offender’s early plea of guilty was also given weight in mitigation.

But the extremely serious nature of the offending, including the lack of “one skerrick of remorse”, warranted a lengthy term of imprisonment, the judge said.

The offender was disqualified from driving for 20 years.

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Page last updated: 4 May 2020