Victims furious at sentence

By Imran Ali

Lynda Ward, her two children and a niece were involved in this serious accident outside Gull. Photo / John Stone
Lynda Ward, her two children and a niece were involved in this serious accident outside Gull. Photo / John Stone

A Whangarei family badly injured in a road crash is fuming at what they call a "light sentence" for the man responsible.

The family also say they were not able to have their victim impact statements read in court because they were not told when he was to be sentenced.

Lynda Ward and sister Jess Ward have refuted claims by the Ministry of Justice that messages were left on their cellphones before and after the sentencing in the Whangarei District Court on Monday.

Soul Freer, 25, earlier pleaded guilty to four charges of careless or inconsiderate vehicle operation causing injury and appeared for sentencing on Monday.

He was sentenced to 100 hours' community work and ordered to pay $2500 reparation to Lynda Ward. Freer was disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for 12 months. The charge is punishable by a prison term of up to three months or a maximum fine of $4500. A mandatory disqualification from driving for at least six months must be imposed.

Freer slammed the car he was driving into Ms Ward's vehicle outside Gull, south of Whangarei, on October 15 last year.

She had picked up daughter Isabella and 10-year-old niece Juliet from school before heading to Toe Toe Rd to pick up her son Kyle, 16.

They were heading north when Freer slammed into Ms Ward's vehicle outside Gull. Ms Ward suffered a broken upper arm and a collapsed bowel, Kyle broke both femurs and had a head injury.

Isabella broke two femurs and was placed in a drug-induced coma for 24 hours, under-going an eight-hour surgery to repair her legs.

Juliet had multiple tears to her intestine and was airlifted to Starship hospital where she remained for two weeks.

Ms Ward said a Victim Adviser last contacted her in January to ask whether she wished to participate in restorative justice to which she agreed.

"It was one of the court dates I didn't want to miss because it was one way of getting closure to all that happened to us. I just feel shocked it's all being dealt with without us even knowing about it," Ms Ward said.

She and her sister submitted victim impact statements in December and their support worker was supposed to read them in court this week. She believes Freer got away "scot-free" with such a light sentence.

"My daughter has to have another operation, my son can't attend school and this is his NCEA year, I have to go to a brain trauma clinic and attend regular counselling."

She believed Freer should have got jail time or at least home detention. Jess Ward refused restorative justice, saying nothing Freer said or did would undo what had already happened to her daughter.

A ministry spokesman said a Victim Adviser called one of the mothers on February 19 to remind her of sentencing day on Monday but left a message on her phone after she did not answer.

"The Victim Adviser called both mothers after Monday's sentencing to advise them of the outcome of the hearing, and again left voice messages as the calls were not picked up," the spokesman said.

However, Ms Ward yesterday said a Victim Adviser rang her on Wednesday and apologised for not letting her know of the sentencing day.

- Northern Advocate

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