Police have been given a dressing down in court for “professional incompetence” for failing to provide victim impact statements well ahead of a bus driver’s sentencing for a fatal crash.
Christchurch District Court Judge Gary MacAskill also criticised the Community Probation Service for not providing information about the financial harm suffered by the person injured, and the family of the person killed.
Judge MacAskill said the issue was not even mentioned in the pre-sentence report on bus driver Lindsay John Taylor. The probation officer in court acknowledged it was an oversight.
But the strongest criticism was reserved for the police, who had forwarded the victim impact statements to the court on the day of Taylor’s sentencing. They reached the judge just as the sentencing session began.
“It is all too common. This is just another example,” said the judge at the end of the sentencing session. “It is professional incompetence on the part of the police.”
Taylor pleaded guilty in April when he was remanded for sentence and the victim impact statements were ordered. The police had months to prepare the statements but according to the dates on the documents they had been done at the last moment.
“If it happens again, the roof will fall – I speak metaphorically,” said the judge. “I have had enough.”
Taylor, 62, pleaded guilty in April to a charge of careless driving causing the death of Trish Beets, 45, a passenger in the car he hit when he drove his bus through a red light at the Kilmore Street-Colombo Street corner. He also admitted causing injury to the driver of the other vehicle.
The victim received immediate fatal injuries and died at the scene, and the car driver was hospitalised for six days with moderate to severe bruising, broken ribs, and a punctured lung.
The accident took place about 8pm on October 4.
The daughter of Mrs Beets, Chloe Beets, told the court of her continuing pain at the loss of her mother. She still struggled with nightmares and it had taken an emotional toll. She criticised the bus Red Bus company for continuing bad driving she saw by its drivers.
Defence counsel John Brandts-Giesen said Taylor was a reclusive man of very modest means who now lived in a caravan on a friend’s property at Oxford. He had lost his job, his confidence, and he would lose his driver’s licence. He was now on an unemployment benefit but was not lazy and would take up work as soon as he could find it.
He expressed Taylor’s great regret for the accident, to the family. He described the accident arising from “a momentary act of inattention”. Taylor believed he had been distracted by some jaywalkers when it happened.
Judge MacAskill said: “Sometimes we all make mistakes on the road, with our driving. Most times nothing happens and sometimes something terribly tragic happens, like this.”
He said Chloe Beets had “bravely” read her statement in court.
Taylor was a first offender, and a loner, who had never been married or had children. He had been highly thought of by his employer, as a driver. He was extremely regretful of the tragedy he had caused.
He imposed 200 hours of community work, and ordered reparation totalling $3800, and disqualified him from driving for nine months.