Home' Horizons : April-May 2011 Contents PHOTOGRAPHY: STOCKIMAGESWA.COM.AU.
worse, perhaps a dangerous overtaking,
or there might be two deaths. They go to
the District Court where you inevitably
see prison sentences. That court also
deals with those aggravated dangerous
driving causing death cases and motor
vehicle manslaughter cases where there
is very high speed, hooning, or where
alcohol is involved, and you are seeing
four, five, six years' imprisonment or
It can be difficult for grieving families
to understand cases where there is no
jail sentence, Mr Quail said, but judges
must look at each offence and decide
whether the driving is better or worse
than other cases.
"Judges say all the time that they can't
use sentencing to redress the wrong -- we
can't restore the person back to life," Mr
"We can't ever give a family who
suffered the loss of someone in
a dangerous driving case any real
satisfaction by way of sentencing."
There are only two people in the
world who know exactly what
happened to Annalise Van Dorssen
on the day that she died -- and they
From what police and the courts
can piece together, the 12-year-old was
walking to her home in Munster from
school in March, 2006, when a red Toyota
Hilux drove down the road, heading in the
What happened next is unclear.
The driver is reported to have been
erratic on the road earlier that afternoon
-- so much so that members of the public
had called the police to complain about
the vehicle as it travelled on the Mitchell
Freeway with the passenger leaning out of
the window waving his arms.
By the time Kyle Francis Gerard Gordon
drove down Holmes Road, something
happened and he left the road at high
speed, running into and over Annalise.
The court found that there were no
marks to suggest Gordon had braked or
even tried to take evasive action. No one
saw the accident, though a neighbour
down the road heard a substantial bang.
Gordon kept driving.
The only explanation ever offered was
Gordon's statement to a nurse the day
after the accident that he had intended
to run over 'bags of rubbish' on the side
of the road.
In sentencing Gordon in the Perth
District Court earlier this year, Justice
Christopher Stevenson noted that while
neither Gordon nor his passenger chose
to give evidence at the trial, which was
their right under law, "There can be no
doubt that both of you know precisely
the circumstances of the offence."
Tests could not show exactly what
speed Gordon was travelling at the time
of the crash, but Justice Stevenson said
his driving showed a complete disregard
of the rules of the road.
"You were obviously driving at a speed
and in a manner which did not give you
sufficient time or any opportunity to see
that the object you had decided to run
over was not 'bags of rubbish', but was in
fact a pedestrian," he said.
"...You chose to drive at something
with the intention of hitting it without
taking any care to ensure that it was safe
to do so, and, critically, that it was not an
While changes to the charge of
dangerous driving causing death have
increased the maximum sentence to
10 years, the crash that killed Annalise was
in 2006, when the maximum penalty was
just four years.
Noting the fact that Gordon had five
further speeding offences after Annalise's
death in the time it took for the case
to come to trial, Justice Stevenson
sentenced him to two years, two months
in jail. Gordon, now 26, will be eligible for
parole by January. At the time Horizons
went to print, the defendant had been
convicted in the District Court.
The sentence was considerably tougher in
the case of Kevin David Barron.
Barron went to a work function in
December 2007 not intending to drive
home but left early after an altercation.
It was after 10pm and John Donnelly
was walking along the gravel verge of
the Sawyers Road when Barron's ute
drifted off the bitumen and its kangaroo
bar knocked Mr Donnelly on to the
windscreen and into the scrub. He died at
Barron was found to have a blood
alcohol level of 0.187 at the time of
the accident and remembers nothing
between leaving the function and
stopping after the crash.
He pleaded guilty to driving under the
influence of alcohol but not guilty to a
charge of being involved in an incident
The case was heard first in the
Magistrates Court but was referred to
the District Court for sentencing since
the magistrate felt his sentencing options
The District Court sentenced Barron
to 7.5 years.
Critical in the debate over Barron's
sentence was the fact that this -- tragically
-- was not the first time he had killed
someone on the road.
In 1983, he had been jailed for
12 months for dangerous driving causing
the death of his brother. In 1996, he had
been convicted of the same offence after
causing the death of a friend.
He had five other offences of driving
without a licence and three of driving
And while Barron's previous record was
not counted an aggravating factor, the
District Court judge said it demonstrated
the dangerous driving was not "an
The Court of Appeal found the
sentence was high but appropriate,
dismissing the appeal.
A TALE OF TWO SENTENCES
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