Crash survivor: toughen youth sentences

By Beck Vass

A crash survivor has called for an overhaul of the youth justice system after the youth who caused a smash which killed two people was sentenced to nine months' supervision.

Karen McGregor-Dawson, 39, was left with a broken femur, collarbone and wrist after a 16-year-old youth fleeing police in a stolen Mercedes smashed head-on into her Toyota RAV as she drove along State Highway 1 in the Dome Valley, north of Auckland.

Two passengers in the stolen car, a 34-year-old hitchhiker and a 17-year-old youth, were killed. A boy, 14, was seriously injured.

The driver of the stolen car was sentenced to nine months' supervision when he appeared in the North Shore Youth Court before Judge Laurence Ryan yesterday.

It is the highest punishment a youth court can impose but not high enough for Ms McGregor-Dawson.

"It's a bit of a slap on the wrist really, isn't it?" she said.

"I guess most people would agree for the loss of two lives and seriously injuring two others, three months in custody plus six months' supervision is really not an adequate consequence.

"I'd hate to think if I died my parents would be dealing with all of this now and this is what they would see for losing a daughter.

There are already two people dead."

Ms McGregor-Dawson says she is not angry.

She was a Christian and had forgiven the boy but was left feeling "very concerned" about the country's youth justice system after the crash.

Ms McGregor-Dawson said she was worried about what would happen to the youth, who has a long history of offending, when his supervision period was over.

The youth will spend three months in a supervised residence and six months being supervised after that.

"I'd like to think it would result in a turnaround in his life. I'd like to think he'd made some right choices but I don't think three months plus supervision is enough time to do that," Ms McGregor-Dawson said.

"I personally don't think it's adequate but given the legislation for youth offending there's not much else the judge could have done.

"The judge was brilliant and he did the best he could given the legislation."

Ms McGregor-Dawson said despite claims in court the youth was remorseful, she had not been offered an apology from him and when he was offered the chance to speak in court yesterday, he said nothing.

She is hoping her case will be used as an example to make law changes to better rehabilitate troubled youths.

* A discussion document about updating the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989, including issues of youth justice, is available online. To make a submission, visit: www.msd.govt.nz

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