Dunedin crash victim's family say driver's sentence won't 'be enough'

By Shawn McAvinue

Riley Baker's girlfriend Amy McCarthy (left) and sister Sarah Baker said police have warned them the driver may never serve prison time. Photo / Linda Robertson
Riley Baker's girlfriend Amy McCarthy (left) and sister Sarah Baker said police have warned them the driver may never serve prison time. Photo / Linda Robertson

A mourning family is preparing for the possibility the man who pleaded guilty to causing a crash which killed Dunedin man Riley Baker may never serve prison time.

Limin Ma, 41, of Shanghai, pleaded guilty to careless driving causing death after crossing the centre line on State Highway 1, near Shag Point, smashing into Mr Baker's oncoming motorcycle on August 13.

Mr Baker, 26, died in Dunedin Hospital two days later.

Ma faces a maximum sentence of three months' imprisonment and a fine of $4500. Judge John Macdonald convicted Ma and remanded him on bail for sentencing tomorrow.

Mr Baker's sister Sarah Baker (28), of Oamaru, said she would read a victim impact statement at the sentencing. She would wear a small urn necklace holding some of her brother's ashes.

Police had warned her family Ma might be sentenced to home detention rather than prison.

''I was shocked. It's a big insult, Surely a person's life is worth more than home detention.''

Mr Baker's girlfriend, Amy McCarthy (22), of Dunedin, said the maximum three-month prison sentence was not a punishment matching the crime.

''Why don't we change it, because three months is not enough. Whether it's an accident or not, you killed somebody,'' Ms McCarthy said. ''Not that it matters anyway because no matter what he gets, it's not going to be enough. It's not going to bring Riley back.''

She would also wear an urn necklace and read a victim impact statement.

Ms McCarthy recently signed a petition relating to a similar crash earlier this year.

Jieling Xiao, of China, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, causing the death of Rhys Middleton (23) on State Highway 5, north of Napier in February.

Xiao (27) was in New Zealand on a 12-month working visa. She had a full driver's licence in China but had never driven on an open road.

Riley Baker was killed after the driver crossed the centre line smasking into his oncoming motorcycle. Photo / Supplied
Riley Baker was killed after the driver crossed the centre line smasking into his oncoming motorcycle. Photo / Supplied

Xiao was sentenced to 17 months in jail and was disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay $10,000 in reparation.

The reparation was paid but Xiao successfully appealed her sentence. It was replaced with nine months' home detention and 150 hours' community service. Xiao was deported days after winning the appeal.

Mr Middleton's mother, Judy Richards, 53, of Tauranga, started a petition on August 24.

The petition asks for legislation requiring any visitor to New Zealand, who was issued with a visa for longer than three months, and wanted to drive a vehicle while in the country, be required to sit successfully a full New Zealand driver's licence test.

University of Otago law faculty dean Prof Mark Henaghan said the law punished reckless drivers ''much more seriously'' than careless drivers.

''With reckless, you take risk and you don't care if it harms someone, whereas carelessness you're not trying to harm anyone, you are just being inadvertent.''

A judge had the discretion to use home detention rather than prison time if the sentence was under two years, Prof Henaghan said.

- Otago Daily Times

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