Drive to update legislation, support victims

Few events were more “seismically traumatising than the loss of a close relative or friend as a result of the actions or negligence of another”, research conducted by Tasmania’s Sentencing Advisory Council found.

The report into sentencing of driving offences that result in death or injury was published in April.

For the family members who are left behind after a loved one is killed as a result of a motor vehicle crash the effect are “significant and long-term”.

The nation was devastated, along with the family of Sarah Paino, when news of her death broke in January 2016.

It was the early hours of the morning in Hobart when a joyride took a tragic turn.

A 15-year-old driving a stolen car crashed into and killed the young mother, who was 32 weeks’ pregnant at the time.

Baby Caleb and his then two-year-old brother survived.

The driver plead guilty to one count of manslaughter and was not convicted of dangerous driving, however, the incident sparked community debate and calls for stricter laws.

On Sunday the state government released draft legislation on dangerous and negligent driving which Police Minister Rene Hidding said gave more scope to the justice system.

It will allow magistrates to refer more serious cases to the supreme court and see those charged with dangerous driving prosecuted under the Criminal Code, which allows for a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison.

But the experiences of victims and families must be considered in the broader picture of the government’s response to dangerous and negligent driving.

“From the perspective of family members, there is little difference between murder and negligent driving causing death given that the trauma and loss are equivalent,” the SAC report said.

So while the draft legislation is a solid start, there is still more work to be done. 

The council suggested making restorative justice procedures available as a supplementary part of the criminal justice system, rather than to divert offenders from the criminal justice system, in cases where death or serious injury has been caused by the use of a motor vehicle.

It also recommended the development of a pilot restorative justice program for negligent driving causing death or grievous bodily harm.