Mackay fam­i­lies turn their grief into a legacy

The rel­a­tives of Bryan Baker and Au­drey Dow were never given the chance to say good­bye. Then they watched the driv­ers re­spon­si­ble for the un­timely deaths walk from court with a small fine. Pushed to act, their anger and hard work has re­sulted in land­mark

Daily Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - MADURA MCCOR­MACK Madura.McCor­mack@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

THE fam­i­lies of Mackay crash vic­tims Bryan Baker and Au­drey Dow re­fused to let their loved ones be just a statis­tic— in­stead they cre­ated a legacy.

Nearly five years af­ter the death of Mrs Dow trig­gered a chain of events and a statewide cam­paign, the gap in Queens­land’s leg­is­la­tion that let her killer walk away with a fine has been plugged.

Care­less driv­ers who maim or kill on Queens­land roads can now face a new charge with a max­i­mum penalty of two years im­pris­on­ment, a $20,000 fine and be dis­qual­i­fied from driv­ing for six months.

An­gela Meik­le­john, Mrs Dow’s daugh­ter, has been at the fore­front of the fight for tougher penal­ties, ever since Coro­ner David O’Con­nell found the leg­is­la­tion gap dur­ing the in­quest into the el­derly woman’s death on July 31, 2013.

Ms Meik­le­john said there is peace of mind know­ing that other fam­i­lies can now see jus­tice served.

THE FAM­I­LIES of Mackay crash vic­tims Bryan Baker and Au­drey Dow re­fused to let their loved ones be just a statis­tic— in­stead they cre­ated a legacy.

Nearly five years af­ter the death of Mrs Dow trig­gered a chain of events and a statewide cam­paign, the gap in Queens­land’s leg­is­la­tion that let her killer walk away with a fine has been plugged.

Care­less driv­ers who maim or kill on Queens­land roads can now face a new charge with a max­i­mum penalty of two years im­pris­on­ment, a $20,000 fine and be dis­qual­i­fied from driv­ing for a min­i­mum of six months.

The new charge, ‘care­less driv­ing caus­ing death or griev­ous bod­ily harm’, acts as a stop­gap be­tween the light and eas­ier to prove ‘care­less driv­ing’ and the harsher ‘dan­ger­ous driv­ing caus­ing death’.

It will also bring Queens­land laws into line with those of New South Wales.

An­gela Meik­le­john, Mrs Dow’s daugh­ter, has been at the fore­front of the fight for tougher penal­ties ever since Coro­ner David O’Con­nell found the leg­is­la­tion gap dur­ing the in­quest into the el­derly woman’s death.

Mrs Dow, 81, was killed on 31 July 2013 af­ter a se­rial dis­qual­i­fied driver trav­el­ling in the op­po­site di­rec­tion on Mul­herin Dr in North Mackay crossed the di­vid­ing line and smashed into her head on. Aaron John Kite was con­victed of reck­less driv­ing caus­ing death, fined $4000 and dis­qual­i­fied from driv­ing again for a fur­ther two years.

Coro­ner O’Con­nell rec­om­mended in 2015 that the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral in­tro­duce a midrange driv­ing of­fence and that it should in­clude a cir­cum­stance of ag­gra­va­tion for driv­ers who had caused death and were driv­ing with­out a li­cence.

With Coro­ner O’Con­nell’s rec­om­men­da­tions now a re­al­ity, Ms Meik­le­john said there is peace of mind know­ing that other fam­i­lies can now see jus­tice served.

“I think it’s a fit­ting me­mo­rial to my mum, that you know when fam­i­lies are faced with this sit­u­a­tion, at least they know that the court will go a fair way for pro­vid­ing jus­tice es­pe­cially where peo­ple have been care­less,” she said.

“I also hope it’s a de­ter­rent for the safety of peo­ple ev­ery­where in Queens­land.”

Bryan Baker, 62, had been trav­el­ling along Maraju-Yaka­pari Rd late in the af­ter­noon on May 14 last year when he was hit by a car mak­ing a U-turn.

The beloved fa­ther and Du­cati en­thu­si­ast passed away in hospi­tal a few hours later. The

78-year-old driver found guilty of caus­ing his death was fined

$2000 and dis­qual­i­fied from driv­ing for six months.

His fam­ily, led by daugh­ter Kate Hard­wick, was dev­as­tated that their fa­ther had died and the jus­tice sys­tem sim­ply moved on.

They joined the hand­ful of griev­ing fam­i­lies fight­ing for change and 13 months on, can now close this chap­ter in the griev­ing process and con­tinue to hon­our his life.

“For our fam­ily, this is the best out­come that we could hope for… this is the change we wanted to see,” Ms Hard­wick said.

“Noth­ing will ever change what hap­pened to our fa­ther but at least for our own peace of mind we know other fam­i­lies that might one day go through the same sit­u­a­tion aren’t go­ing to have the added blow of the Queens­land law not ac­knowl­edg­ing what had hap­pened.

“It’s still a ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion, to have some­one ripped from your life and you don’t have that time to say good­bye.

“But in re­gards to what we fought for in his mem­ory, it is clo­sure or the end of that chap­ter.”

Ms Meik­le­john, Ms Hard­wick, the Bund­aberg-based Walker-Mab­ley fam­ily, and the Bris­bane-based fam­i­lies of crash vic­tims Yas­min McAl­lis­ter and Gerald McCrossin were flown to Bris­bane last week at the be­hest of Trans­port Min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley, who ex­plained the pro­posed laws to them in per­son. The laws were de­bated and voted in unan­i­mously in state par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day night, as part of the Heavy Ve­hi­cle Na­tional Law and Other Leg­is­la­tion Amend­ment Bill.

“As was iden­ti­fied by the coro­ner in the in­quest into the death of Au­drey Anne Dow, there is cur­rently a sig­nif­i­cant

‘‘

FOR OUR FAM­ILY, THIS IS THE BEST OUT­COME THAT WE COULD HOPE FOR… THIS IS THE CHANGE WE WANTED TO SEE.

KATE HARD­WICK

leg­isla­tive gap in Queens­land law be­tween care­less driv­ing of­fences and dan­ger­ous driv­ing of­fences,” Mr Bai­ley said.

“These new of­fences will give courts more ca­pac­ity to deal with peo­ple who com­mit care­less driv­ing of­fences where a per­son is killed or suf­fers griev­ous bod­ily harm.

“I want to thank Au­drey’s fam­ily and many other fam­i­lies who dur­ing their time of grief brought about a cam­paign for change to help other fam­i­lies from be­ing in the tragic cir­cum­stances they found them­selves.”

In a speech to Par­lia­ment in sup­port of the laws, Whitsunday MP Jason Costi­gan said Mrs Dow was a great con­trib­u­tor to the city and he re­mem­bers her from when he was a young lad liv­ing in North Mackay.

“No mat­ter what we do here

to­day… we can­not bring these loved ones back,” he said.

“We all wish we could, but sadly we can­not. When we come into this place—no mat­ter where we come from, no mat­ter what party we are from—we are here to try to make the sys­tem bet­ter.

“For those fam­i­lies that I have men­tioned, to­day has been a real long time com­ing.”

The Depart­ment of Trans­port and Main Roads will mon­i­tor the ap­pli­ca­tion of the new laws in the first 12 to 24 months to en­sure they are achiev­ing the de­sired out­comes.

Ms Hard­wick and Ms Meik­le­john thanked Mr Bai­ley, the fam­i­lies who cam­paigned along­side them and the com­mu­nity for mak­ing the new laws a re­al­ity, and said it proved peo­ple who fight for what they be­lieve in are able to make a change.

Photo: Baker Fam­ily

Mackay man Bryan Baker, who was killed in a road traf­fic crash on May 14, 2017

Au­drey Dow’s fam­ily af­ter the 2015 in­quest in Mackay and (at right) Mrs Dow.

Pho­tos: An­drea Davy/Contributed

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