MAN JAILED FOR ATC CRASH
A ROCKHAMPTON man has been jailed for five years over a horror crash at Apple Tree Creek that claimed the lives of two of his nieces and seriously injured four other family members.
Daniel Christopher Lawrence, 31, had pleaded guilty in Brisbane District Court to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm and to negligent acts causing harm.
The crash happened in the early hours of August 14, 2011 on the Bruce Hwy near the intersection of Gentle Annie Rd.
Lawrence, who was unlicensed, had received a phone call from his sister, Alana Lawrence, asking him to drive to Ballina in northern NSW to collect her and her five children so she could escape a violent relationship.
Crown prosecutor Ben Power said the family were on the way back to Rockhampton when the four-wheel-drive veered off the road on a bend and slammed into a gum tree.
He said Lawrence had either fallen asleep or was not fully concentrating.
Lawrence’s nieces, Indiana, seven weeks, and Ella, 1, were killed instantly.
Another niece, Chloe, 3, received serious head injuries and two older siblings, Breanna, 5, and Jasmine, 7, and their mother Alana received minor injuries.
None of the children was wearing a seatbelt.
Lawrence also pleaded guilty to armed robbery after he held up a taxi driver, 67, at Rockhampton on November 2, 2011.
The court heard Lawrence had been self-medicating at the time of the robbery in an attempt to deal with the crash.
Defence barrister Lars Falcongreen said Lawrence had a horrid and abusive upbringing which included his mother hitting him regularly with a cricket stump because she said he looked like his alcoholic father.
He said Lawrence had had to deal with an enormous amount of grief over the past few years.
“His father passed away last year and shortly after that his long-term girlfriend hung herself,” he said.
“His brother was murdered in 2007 but the alleged offender died before any trial commenced.”
Mr Falcongreen said Lawrence had been diagnosed with moderate post-traumatic stress disorder since the crash.
He said Lawrence had told him that he had hit rock bottom and felt “absolutely putrid’’ about the robbery.
“He has constant nightmares since the crash and often wakes up crying in his sleep,” he said.
“He is totally grief-stricken.’’
Judge Julie Dick said it was a tragic situation.
She said despite the full support of Lawrence’s sister and her wish that he not be punished any further, she had no choice but to sentence him to a custodial term.
“Three of the children were unrestrained and that is just inexplicable on a long journey when you are travelling at speed,” Judge Dick said.
“The sentencing process is not about vengeance, and I accept your extreme remorse, but there are other factors which I must consider when sentencing you.
“I know your sister does not want you to go to prison, but you must.”
Judge Dick sentenced Lawrence to five years behind bars, to be fully suspended after he had served 20 months.
Lawrence was also disqualified from driving or obtaining a driver’s licence for two years.
DEADLY ROAD: The scene of the accident at Apple Tree Creek where a car left the road and ploughed into a tree. INSET: Daniel Christopher Lawrence.