Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What price the Mildura Massacre?

6 dead because, allegedly, he was drunk, speeding and had his 4 year old son on his lap holding the steering wheel.

I'm prepared to hold back on the stream of hateful vitriol that's bubbling away inside me. I am thus because I doubt he will see the mercy of the law. Its quality is likely to be finely strained indeed.

A couple of weeks back, seeking inspiration as I waited on my job offers, I walked into a random hearing in the Victorian Court of Appeal. The case I heard argued before the 3 judges involved an appeal by the prosecutors against a sentence for culpable driving that they said was manifestly inadequate.

That offender was just 18 at the time, with one driving prior. The victims in that case had both voluntarily got into the car with the intoxicated driver, and the girl who died most likely didn't have a seatbelt on. That offender suffered significant injuries himself in the accident.

The alleged offender in Mildura is 35 and the 6 victims in no way chose to share risk with him. He also put his own kids, especially his son, at risk.

Here's what the judges said in the Court of Appeal:

Whereas sentences of less than five years for culpable driving were once not uncommon, today such a sentence is a relative rarity, except perhaps where one is concerned with a first-time offender and the death of the victim has been more the consequence of bad luck than out and out stupidity.

That offender had his sentence increased from 3 years to 6, with a non parole of 3.5.

The Mildura accused may get some relief because he has kids to look after, and if he has no priors that could help as well. But 'out and out stupidity' sounds like a very good description of what we've heard so far, and I'd personally be banking on 7 or 8 years, with at least 4 behind bars, for this sad fool who's ruined so many lives.


kate said...

Twenty odd years ago no one thought it was negligent that my aunt took my brother and I in her van (with her doberman) for a day in the country. We sat in the back of the van, where there was no fixed seating, on beanbags, with the dog. The aunt in question now thinks that was insanely dangerous, and would never drive with a kid unrestrained. She wasn't drunk while driving us, but my Dad and most of my uncles probably were at some stage. Not plastered, just over what is now considered acceptable. I also sat on my Dad's lap and 'helped' drive a forklift as a small child. I can't imagine Dad thinking that's a good idea now either. Fortunately we were never in an accident. The point is that for my family, public safety education made an impact. Kids go in carseats, and designated drivers don't drink. So I'm more focussed on why such messages haven't had an impact accross the board. Why did this guy apparently think it was ok to have a four year old unrestrained, let alone 'helping' with the driving? How did he miss those messages?

Anonymous said...

"he has kids to look after" implies he is going to be allowed to continue to, well, kind of, look after them. Which is a bit horrifying.

Cast Iron Balcony

Anonymous said...

i can't believe he will be out of prison in such a short time! thomas graham towel has killed 6 of my friends and made my life misery! he should be locked away forever for what he's done to their family and friends! how in the hell do can he be trusted to look after his own kids when hes killed 6?! i think it's just ridiculous... r.i.p cory shane abby cassie stevie and josie.. miss you guys sooo much! xoxox

Anonymous said...

I definately believe he was in the wrong....the Hirsts were family friends of my aunty, uncle and cousins....however I also know as Ive grown up in Mildura and have done the same thing - walking on those dark roads out there....that is also partly why it happened. I stress again that the driver was 100% in the wrong...but it also could have happened regardless who was burning around that corner...pls Mildura teenagers - do not walk on the dirt , dark roads out in Shire Mildy.!!! It couldve been me and a group of 8 others after our VCE ball out near Irymple - we were doing the same thing!!!

Anonymous said...

I would first like offer my condolences to the families I couldnt imagine losing one of my kids in any way I have lost two young brothers to suicide and have seen the affects the loss has had on myself and my family but I do think its about time that Australia stands up to the slack legal system this guy murdered six young people now it is my understanding an argument can be made that 'any reasonable person' can see that driving a vehical under the influence will cause harm to someone else this man owed the youth a duty of care and breached it severly, this light sentenance is sending out the message that if you want to get away with MURDER that all you need to do is get drunk and run over someone just make sure that you have your kids in the car and cry at trial God is not to blame but the people of Australia need I mean if we the americans in every way then why not follow the way they stand up for their rights this extremely tradgety could have been prevented if the law wasnt so screwed up