‘Bitterly disappointed’: No appeal of fatal crash sentence
The family of Taylen Swanson is “bitterly disappointed” after receiving news this week Queensland’s Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman will not appeal the sentence of the driver at fault of a crash which killed the four-year-old boy.
Michelle Lee Newton, 30, was sentenced on March 19 to 3.5 years prison, wholly suspended and operational for five years for one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm, along with one count each of drug-driving while being a provisional licence holder and possessing a dangerous drug.
The crash she caused on the Burnett Highway at Bouldercombe on September 18, 2016, killed Taylen and caused grievous bodily harm to his mother Kel Williams and her friend Nik Kilpatrick.
Family members, including Taylen’s aunt Jody Swanson, started a petition after the sentence, calling for an appeal, along with pushing for mandatory minimum actual time in custody for people convicted of the charge dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
The Liberal National Party’s Tim Nicholls described the sentence of Ms Williams as “manifestly inadequate”.
Read why here: Fatal crash driver’s sentence ‘manifestly inadequate’
Mr Nicholls, the justice spokesman for the LNP, also called on Queensland’s Attorney-General to lodge an appeal on the sentence.
The Attorney-General told The Morning Bulletin last month she had sought advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about an appeal.
Parties involved in the sentencing have 28 days to lodge an appeal, according to Queensland legislation.
This week, Ms Fentiman informed the family she would not be requesting an appeal.
“I had requested the Director of Public Prosecutions to provide me with advice on appealing this sentence,” Ms Fentiman said.
“Following careful consideration of this matter and concerns raised by the Swanson family, the advice determined that there is no reasonable prospects of success on appeal.
“The decision not to appeal against the sentence imposed on Ms Newton in no way diminishes the seriousness of her offending.
“I have written to Ms Swanson to offer my sincere sympathy to her and her family and advise her of the decision not to appeal in accordance with the advice.”
Ms Swanson said the family felt as though the justice system was set out to only help the perpetrators and not the victims.
“This is bitterly disappointing to our family,” she said.
“Her injuries and disabilities are so bad that a prison term would be “onerous”, yet she is able to be back at work right now, she is able to spend time with her family … She is free to live her life.
“In two years, her “absolute” loss of licence could be lifted.”
Ms Swanson said it felt like Ms Newton was not in any way being held accountable for her actions on that day.
“I very much doubt that even if she was to re-offend that justice would be served,” she said.
“The AG’s decision and advice just continues to show how flawed our justice system is.
“We, as a family, would have been happy with even a small amount of time in prison, some form of recognition, both sides were calling for some time in prison yet the judicial system has severely let us down once again.
“The judge stated that no ruling can bring Taylen back or lessen the impact.
“The judge’s decision only made the impact on our family worse.
“Surely our prison system could accommodate even for a short period of time.
“I am at a complete loss for words.
“They say the sentence no way diminishes the seriousness of the offending.
“The sentence handed down in no way, shape or form reflects the seriousness … no accountability, no recognition of a life lost, no acknowledgment of the mental illnesses and physical constraints this woman caused our family. No justice for Taylen.”