A tourist driver from China was sentenced to 17 months in jail today for causing a crash which killed a motorcyclist in Napier.

Jieling Xiao pleaded guilty last month to dangerous driving, causing the death of 23-year-old Rhys Middleton.

She crashed into the motorcyclist on State Highway Five, north of Napier, in February.

Mr Middleton, from Tauranga, was travelling with five motorcycle companions, including his father and brother, as they returned home from a gathering of bike enthusiasts in Havelock North.


Xiao, who also disqualified from driving for three years and ordered to pay $10,000 in reparation, was on a New Zealand on a 12-month working visa.

She had a full driver's licence in China for six years but had very limited experience driving in 100kph zones or on single lane rural roads.

Friends and family of Mr Middleton packed the public gallery at Napier District Court this morning for the sentencing. One woman entered the court holding a picture of Mr Middleton.

The court heard that the day before the fatal crash, Xiao had gone out to practise her driving in a car she had bought just the week before. A passenger in the car had expressed concerns over her driving ability and felt fearful.

Prosecutor Steve Manning said Mr Middleton's death was a tragedy that could have been easily avoided if she had recognised her inability to drive on open roads.

Judge Mackintosh initially sentenced Xiao to three and a half years in jail but she reduced this due to Xiao's early plea and remorse.

She described her driving as grossly incompetent and an accident waiting to happen.

Xiao was extremely distraught as the sentence was handed down.

Mr Middleton's mother Judy, father Michael, brother Ryan and fiancé Laura Settle read out victim impact statements to the court and a letter of remorse from Xiao was read by her lawyer, Scott Jefferson.

In the victim impact statements, family members said their lives would never be the same.

Ms Settle and Mr Middleton would have married on February 11 next year.