DPP v Rakatau [2019] VCC 1318

Sentence summary: Culpable driving

A drunk driver who killed two young children when he ploughed head-on into their car while excessively speeding was jailed.

Damian Rakatau, 42, pleaded guilty to two charges of culpable driving causing death and one charge of negligently causing serious injury.

Two children, a 10-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother, died as a result of the crash.

The driver and mother of the children suffered life-threatening injuries.

The offender was sentenced to 13 years behind bars with a non-parole period of at least nine years.

The children’s father, who was a front seat passenger and not seriously injured in the crash, told the court how he suffers “unspeakable grief, sadness and pain” every day.

Driving a Ford SUV, the offender collided head-on with the family-of-four travelling in a small Ford hatchback on Hopkins Road in Truganina while attempting to overtake a separate vehicle.

The young girl died at the scene while her younger brother died days later in hospital.

A toxicology report showed the offender had a blood alcohol concentration of between 0.152 and 0.173 per cent at the time of the crash.

Police estimated the Ford hatchback was travelling about 60km/h at the time of the crash while the offender was travelling at more than 115km/h.

The area of road where the collision occurred carries an 80km/h speed limit.

The presiding judge accepted that up to 25 cans of bourbon and coke was consumed between the offender and a friend in the hours before the offending.

Witnesses described the offender’s driving as “erratic” and that the car was travelling at a “high rate of speed”.

Earlier in the night, the offender forced an oncoming vehicle to swerve off the road to avoid a collision.

Aggravating factors included how the offender did not have a registered driver’s license and has never held one.

The judge described the driving of the offender as “grossly negligent” which was “compounded by your drunkenness”.

“You pulled out to overtake a car at a high speed, without any regard to oncoming traffic. You did not give Ms Varughese any chance to avoid you, resulting in this horrific collision,” the judge said.

The judge accepted the recent passing of the offender’s long-term partner and limited cognitive ability would make any jail term onerous, however the seriousness of the crimes meant there was no other option that a lengthy prison sentence.

“Whilst the sentence I impose will be long, I consider that I must give specific deterrence some weight in this process in light of your driving history,” the judge said.

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Page last updated: 4 May 2020