Taylen’s Law: AG seeking advice about appealing sentence

Queensland’s Attorney-General has sought advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about the wholly suspended prison term handed to a Rockhampton woman convicted of killing a four-year-old boy in a car crash.

The Morning Bulletin requested Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman answer questions in relation to the sentence Michelle Lee Newton, 30, received for dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm on March 19.

Michelle Lee Newton, 30, leaving Rockhampton courthouse on March 19, 2021, after being sentenced to 3.5 years prison wholly suspended operational five years and absolutely disqualified from driving for one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm, drug driving and possession of marijuana.
Michelle Lee Newton, 30, leaving Rockhampton courthouse on March 19, 2021, after being sentenced to 3.5 years prison wholly suspended operational five years and absolutely disqualified from driving for one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death and grievous bodily harm, drug driving and possession of marijuana.

Ms Fentiman’s office was contacted this week by The Morning Bulletin following the revelation the victims and family members of a crash which killed a Taylen Swanson, 4, and seriously injured two adults had launched a petition to have mandatory sentences imposed for motorists convicted of dangerous driving causing death, known as Taylen’s Law.

The push for the change in sentencing regime in Queensland comes after victims and family members of those in a fatal Central Queensland crash were devastated the motorist who caused the crash walked out of court the same day she received a wholly suspended prison term for her actions.

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.

Kel Williams (centre) leaves Rockhampton courthouse
Kel Williams (centre) leaves Rockhampton courthouse

She was also disqualified from driving absolutely – meaning she can apply to the court in two years‘ time to have the absolute disqualification lifted.

Taylen’s aunt, Jody Swanson, had sent a letter to Ms Fentiman about the matter.

Ms Fentiman’s office advised it had received the letter and would respond.

“I have sought advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about an appeal,” Ms Fentiman said.

Parties involved in the sentencing have 28 days to lodge an appeal, according to Queensland legislation.

Ms Swanson told The Morning Bulletin she believed the sentence needed reviewing.

“The punishment is not fitting the crime,” she claimed.

“There is no acknowledgment of what she did.

“I believe that even a small amount of jail time would help hold her accountable for her actions. Help her understand that she has a duty of care when on the road.”

Meanwhile, the Change.org petition Ms Swanson set up, with the aim to send the petition to Ms Fentiman, pushing for Taylen’s Law, had 2,800 signatures as at 2.30pm, April 1, 2021.

Other drivers convicted of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death from crashes in Central Queensland have spent time in prison.

Errol John Miller fled a random breath test site on June 10, 2011, and less than five minutes later, a 16-year-old girl was dead.

He had crashed the car on Southern Access Road, near Woorabinda.

Miller was sentenced on August 12, 2014, to seven years‘ jail and disqualified from driving for five years. He had already served 16 months and was eligible for parole on February 11, 2015.

Read more here: Drunk driver jailed over 16-year-old girl’s death

Peter Matthias William Hills was 41 when he was sentenced in Rockhampton District Court in November 2017 for the fatal crash that occurred at Bajool about 5.30pm on August 10, 2015, as Hills drove himself and two others home from Port Alma salt flats.

The crash killed Neil Bulley, 47, and seriously injured Dayne Ladbrook, 24 at the time.

Hills was sentenced in 2017 to three years jail, suspended after serving nine months and operational for 3.5 years.

Read more here: Fatigue caused horror crash that killed colleague

A driver who killed a young mother of four after doing speeds of up to 170km/h while highly intoxicated had been busted drink driving five times in 33 years.

Wayne Barnham, 52, was sentenced to nine years’ prison on August 29, 2018, for the dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing the death of Tina- Marie Johnson, 27.

Read more here: Young mum killed by speeding serial drink driver



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