Natalia Pearn's mother applauds new driving offence penalty plans

Natalia Pearn
Natalia Pearn

The mother of a Launceston woman who died in a crash caused by negligent driving has applauded the state government’s move to increase penalties for driving offences.

Kris Pearn’s daughter Natalia died on the Midland Highway, near Lovely Banks, in 2013, when a car came into the oncoming lane, colliding with her vehicle.

Mrs Pearn said it brought a smile to her face when Police Minister Rene Hidding detailed the Hodgman government’s draft legislation, proposing to introduce tougher penalties for people convicted of dangerous or negligent driving. 

The draft legislation outlines a plan to bring people charged with dangerous driving before the Supreme Court instead of the Magistrates Court.

It comes in the wake of the June hit-and-run death of Vanessa Hayward in New Town and the 2016 death of young mother Sarah Paino in Hobart.

The legislation would see dangerous driving offences moved from the Traffic Act to the Criminal Code Act, which Mr Hidding noted would effectively result in a “tenfold” increase in penalties for first offences.

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Under the draft legislation, the maximum jail sentence that could be imposed for a dangerous driving conviction would be 21 years.

It would also introduce harsher penalties for people found guilty of negligent driving.

Those found guilty of causing death by negligent driving would face a maximum penalty of two years’ jail instead of one, while those found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm by negligent driving would face one year instead of six months.

Mr Hidding said the government wanted to “deal with ... the prevalence of dangerous and negligent driving”.

“What we’re talking about here is the future,” he said.

“You cannot get on Tasmanian roads and behave like some people have been behaving, in a dangerous fashion, using your car as a lethal weapon. Believing that you’re just going to go to a minor court and get a slap on the wrist.

“We need to separate out what’s negligent and what’s dangerous.”

Mrs Pearn said that the government’s proposal was “such a good thing”.

She said that increased penalties may act as a deterrent against driving offences.

“It might just save one life,” Mrs Pearn said.

She believed that laws around dangerous and negligent driving were “so outdated”, given that they relied on a piece of legislation enacted in 1925, when vehicles were far less advanced than the ones we drive today.

“The victims’ families are the ones that are left gutted,” Mrs Pearn said.

It might just save one life

Kris Pearn

She recalled being told by police that her daughter had been killed, after having received a text message from Natalia which read, “I love you, Mumsy”.

“It’s hard to describe how it feels when you open the door,” she said.

Mrs Pearn said changing the law should not necessarily be about putting offenders in jail, but, rather, ensuring that other people did not have to go through the trauma she and her loved ones are going through.

Labor has not yet seen the draft legislation, but Deputy Opposition Leader Michelle O’Byrne said that the party was “always pleased to look at things that increase the power of the judicial system”.

“We have no problem with courts having a greater range of options available to them,” she said.

“That being said, there are two aspects to this: one is the punishment for the crime; the other is the role we need to play to ensure we educate and train our young drivers and ensure that the best driving is taking place on the roads.”