Echuca woman’s jail sentence over crash death reduced
An Echuca woman jailed over a crash south of Shepparton that killed her de facto partner has had her sentence reduced on appeal to the Supreme Court.
Amber Peers lodged two grounds with the Court of Appeal, arguing the sentencing judge was wrong to conclude the circumstances that allow for a noncustodial or combination sentence were not met.
It was argued that Peers’ impaired mental functioning would result in her being subject to substantially and materially greater than the ordinary burden or risks of imprisonment.
In February Peers was sentenced to 30 months’ jail with a nonparole period of 12 months after pleading guilty in the County Court to one charge of dangerous driving causing death.
Peers was travelling around at least 128 km/h as she tried to overtake a 26 m B-double truck in the 500 m long overtaking lane on Goulburn Valley Hwy at Kialla West on July 21, 2019.
Realising she was unable to overtake safely she braked heavily and her vehicle skidded for about 50 metres. The vehicle veered across the north-bound lane and off the road, clipping a formed concrete drain and impacting a large tree on the passenger side.
Passenger Rowan Penberthy, 30, was killed in the crash.
The Appeal Court justices concluded Peers’ underlying medical conditions, in the context of her grief and inability to access her support dog, meant that imprisonment would result in a greater burden in prison and that the mere presence of a mental health unit did not mean her treatment needs would be met. The Appeal Court also accepted that it was open to the sentencing judge to consider other sentence combinations.
‘‘This court has previously noted that the offence of dangerous driving causing death is a serious one, and ‘it is difficult to see how any sentence other than one of immediate imprisonment could possibly meet the needs of general deterrence, adequate punishment, and denunciation’.’’
The appeal was granted, and the original sentence set aside.
In resentencing the Appeal Court acknowledged it was a difficult task.
‘‘The speed at which the applicant drove and the overtaking manoeuvre plainly rendered the driving dangerous and general deterrence is important. However, in our view, a term of imprisonment of shorter duration is sufficient in this case to meet the demands of general deterrence, which must be moderated having regard to the applicant’s particular mental health conditions and the extra burden she would suffer in prison,’’ the court said.
‘‘It is the necessary reality for offending of this kind that people with unblemished records, undoubted remorse, and with little or no prospect of re-offending, will receive an immediate term of imprisonment.’’
Peers was resentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment with a minimum of eight months to be served before she is eligible for parole.