Home detention and road ban for careless driver causing death

By Peter de Graaf

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A Far North teenager has been sentenced to eight months' home detention after a "stupid" overtaking manoeuvre killed a Moerewa man and seriously injured his partner.

According to the police summary of facts, Damien Leonard Halliday was driving a Nissan Skyline on Bulls Gorge, on State Highway 10 south of Kerikeri, about 9.45pm on February 21 when he decided to pass another vehicle heading downhill. He had started overtaking on a right-hand bend near the top of the gorge when he saw the headlights of another car coming towards him. The Okaihau 19-year-old pulled to the far right of the road to avoid the northbound car, which simultaneously swerved to the left.

The head-on crash took the life of 35-year-old Kaine Smith, a front-seat passenger in the northbound car. The driver, Natasha Simon, suffered multiple injuries including two leg fractures. She requires ongoing treatment. Judge Greg Davis said the law on overtaking stated that 100m clear visibility was required throughout the entire manoeuvre, and that Halliday's driving fell below the standard expected of a prudent driver.

"It is without doubt in my mind that falling below the standard has resulted in the death of Mr Smith and the significant injuries that have been suffered by Ms Simon ... My own knowledge of that area says to me there is no safe way that an overtaking manoeuvre could have been effected."

It was suggested he had not seen the oncoming headlights but that was simply because the bottom of Bulls Gorge was a blind corner, Judge Davis said. Instead of reading from formal victim impact statements, family members on both sides of the tragedy spoke directly and powerfully to the court.

Mr Smith's whanau described Halliday's actions as foolish and stupid, and how Mr Smith's death would have been dealt with in the old days according to tikanga.

Judge Davis said the family members' korero would not have fitted in a victim impact statement, which specified what had to be included and what could not.

"But I am actually quite glad about that because one of the criticisms often levelled towards victim impact statements in their written form is that they became a sanitised version of what is actually being felt ... I am glad we got it from the heart today, in its rawest form," he said.

Judge Davis took two years' jail as a starting point, reducing it to eight months' home detention for Halliday's early guilty plea, remorse and lack of previous convictions. He was also disqualified from driving for two years.

- Northern Advocate

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