When 14-year-old Sophia Barton stood in court yesterday she was wearing a beautiful cream dress with large colourful flowers.

It was the same dress she had worn to the funeral of her mother, Nola Jane Paterson-Barton.

The reason she chose the dress — it was just like her mother, bright and cheerful and beautiful.

She said all of this while addressing Rodney Martin, the man who failed to stop at an intersection, T-boning her mother's car and ultimately killing her.

Sophie Barton with her mother, Nola Paterson-Barton, who was killed in a car crash in November last year. Photo / supplied
Sophie Barton with her mother, Nola Paterson-Barton, who was killed in a car crash in November last year. Photo / supplied

The 53-year-old approached the intersection of Oteramika Rd and Mill Rd South on November 19 last year following another vehicle.

At his sentencing in the High Court at Invercargill yesterday, Justice Rachel Dunningham said Martin, who was travelling at 56km/h at the time, believed he had enough time to get through.

He did not — and as a consequence Nola Jane Paterson-Barton died.

For Sophia and her whole family the loss of their mother was inexplicable.

"You took my mum away from me. She wasn't just my mum, she was my best friend.

Rodney Martin was sentenced in the High Court yesterday to home detention for reckless driving causing the death of Nola Paterson-Barton. Photo / Laura Smith
Rodney Martin was sentenced in the High Court yesterday to home detention for reckless driving causing the death of Nola Paterson-Barton. Photo / Laura Smith

"All I can think of is I should have hugged her tighter the last time I saw her."

After the sentencing, Sophia said her mother meant the world to her.

"I remember from the age of 11 onwards, it became part of my routine to end the night with a hot drink and to watch an episode of our current favourite show," she said.


"I will never forget the happy feeling of looking over at her, snuggled up on the couch with her cup of tea, laughing at something someone had said. 'I love you a million trillion times to the moon and back', she'd always tell me."

What Sophia missed most though, was getting a hug.

"She had a way of embracing someone with such love it felt like it was radiating off of her.

"I'll always remember the glowing feeling inside of me when I saw her smile, and how soft and comforting her voice became when she told me she loved me.

"She taught me everything I know, except how to do it all without her. I remember always asking what would happen, if the unthinkable happened to her, and she'd always say that everything would be okay because she would still be here."

Husband Jamie Barton met his future wife at school in Central Otago when he was just 15 and she was 16 years old.


The high school sweethearts married in 2001. For the past 30 years they had been at each other's side.

"She genuinely cared about everyone else. She would always have time to listen and talk with people," Jamie Barton said.

Her world was her family.

"She just lived for the children. We've always put them first. She was so involved in every aspect of their lives."

The Bartons' three girls, Sophia, Ruby, 12, and Lucy, 11, filled their mother's time.

Like many families, they had a calendar full of the daily to and fro of which child needed to be where, when.


It was Nola Jane Paterson-Barton who orchestrated the deliveries of children to events and practices to ensure everyone arrived at the right place and time.

She would volunteer to help. Whether it was a sports team needing coaching or a kapa haka group needing costumes sewn, she would be there, getting on with it.

"She was hugely involved in her community here since we moved to Invercargill," Jamie Barton said.

"Coaching kids' sports teams and everything."

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Her death had left an incredible void in their household and the community, he said.

Nola Jane Paterson-Barton devoted her time to helping others through her career as a nurse, working in the emergency department when in Dunedin, then in the surgical ward at Southland Hospital when they moved south.

New Zealand's 2019 road toll.

In court yesterday, Jamie Barton turned to face Martin as he read out his victim impact statement.

He told him he could not recall a time in his adult life without his wife by his side.

"I can't imagine how I will even begin to fill the void," he said.

Every celebration would now be sad as a result of the decision Martin made that day, he said.

"It will be a constant reminder that Nola is no longer with us.

His children would miss out on "thousands of future life events" because of Martin.


He described how Sophia and Ruby were reminded of the tragedy constantly as they had to pass the intersection while travelling on their school bus.

A letter Martin wrote to the family was read out by defence counsel Fiona Guy-Kidd.

In it, he told the family as a father, husband and son, it wasn't hard to appreciate the enormity of the impact caused by the death of Nola Paterson-Barton.

"If life was fair I would be dead and Nola would be doing the things she normally did," Martin's letter said.

Justice Dunningham said Martin knew the road, therefore realised the intersection was a dangerous one. There were two warning signs before the stop sign — one stating it was a high crash zone, she said.

Addressing the family before sentencing, Justice Dunningham said: "Nothing I can do will bring Nola back, nor will it ease the sense of grief that you feel."


She sentenced Martin to eight months' home detention, which would need to be served at a friend's house away from his family, as Martin did not have cellphone coverage on his farm.

He was also ordered to pay $10,000 emotional harm reparation to the Barton family and $1594.78 for repairs to a fence damaged in the crash.

Speaking after the sentencing, Jamie Barton said his wife's genuine love was what he loved the most.

"To me she was quite simply the most beautiful person I have ever known. Her compassion and love for life defined her."

For Sophia, her memory of the bright and beautiful and cheerful mother will live forever.

"No one that ever knew her could forget her. She will always be with me, a memory of laughter, of beauty, and of love."