Dad wel­comes po­ten­tial jail term

Waitaki Herald - - NEWS -

Tourists who cause deaths on New Zealand roads ‘‘need to be made an ex­am­ple of, ‘‘ says the fa­ther of five-year-old Ruby Mar­ris, who was killed in a head-on col­li­sion near Mo­er­aki on Fe­bru­ary 21.

Chi­nese tourist Jing Cao, 32, pleaded guilty to danger­ous driv­ing caus­ing death and five counts of danger­ous driv­ing caus­ing in­jury when he ap­peared be­fore Judge Kevin Phillips in the Dunedin Dis­trict Court last week.

Judge Phillips told Cao, through an in­ter­preter, to pre­pare for a cus­to­dial sen­tence.

‘‘I thought he would get a fine but we will take what­ever the court hands down,’’ Ruby’s fa­ther, Tris­tan, said.

‘‘It won’t bring Ruby back but it will show tourists that when they come to New Zealand and don’t fol­low our road rules they will be go­ing to pri­son.’’

Cao’s de­fence lawyer, Anne Stevens, called for a home detention sen­tence, but Judge Phillips said a full­time cus­to­dial sen­tence would send a stronger mes­sage.

‘‘A harsh sen­tence will be good for all New Zealan­ders – this can’t hap­pen again and it shouldn’t be tol­er­ated. I have faith the judge will make an ex­am­ple of him [Cao],’’ Tris­tan said.

He was in court to hear the plea, along with his brother-in­law and Ruby’s grand­fa­ther.

The court heard how, on Fe­bru­ary 21, Cao had veered into the right hand lane on Stage High­way 1 af­ter vis­it­ing the Mo­er­aki Boul­ders near Oa­maru. Af­ter cross­ing the cen­tre line, Cao drove over a brow in the road and col­lided head-on with the Mar­ris fam­ily’s ve­hi­cle.

Ruby, a stu­dent at Ard­gowan School, died at the scene.

Tris­tan, 41, and his wife Kim­ber­ley, 40, suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries, and Ruby’s older sis­ters, Ge­or­gia, 9, and So­phie, 7, sus­tained mod­er­ate in­juries.

Cao’s driv­ing also caused se­ri­ous in­juries to his 60-year-old mother, who was a pas­sen­ger in his rented four-wheeldrive Ford Ranger.

Ac­cord­ing to Tris­tan, Cao has made no ef­fort to con­tact the fam­ily.

‘‘It’s good he has pleaded guilty. . . but words can’t de­scribe how dis­ap­pointed we are that he hasn’t ex­pressed any re­morse.’’

Ruby’s fu­neral was held at St Pa­trick’s Basil­ica in Oa­maru on March 5. Those who at­tended heard how she was deeply loved and cher­ished by all who knew her.

She was de­scribed by rel­a­tives as hav­ing a ‘‘cheeky smile and a mis­chievous twin­kle in her eyes’’ .

Tris­tan said that his fam­ily had both their ‘‘good days and bad days’’.

‘‘Ruby’s death has left a big hole in ev­ery­one’s heart.’’

Cao was re­manded on bail and will reap­pear in the court for sen­tenc­ing on June 9.

Tris­tan said he had faith in the jus­tice sys­tem and the fam­ily would now work on pre­par­ing the vic­tim im­pact state­ments they will read out in court.

‘‘We will be there for Ruby,’’ he said.

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