MAN JAILED FOR ATC CRASH

Isis Town and Country - - Front Page - By ADAM DAVIES

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.

PHO­TOS: MIKE KNOTT BUN140811APP1

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.

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