A mother has been found guilty of killing her unrestrained 2-year-old daughter in a car crash while on P.

Valencia Skipper has appeared for a brief trial in the Napier District Court, after pleading not guilty to one charge of driving a car while under the influence of methamphetamine, and causing the death of her daughter, Saphire Skipper-Hira.

Potential jurors were sent home earlier this morning, after Skipper's defence lawyer elected to have a judge-alone trial instead.

An application to take photographs of the 21-year-old in court was granted, despite her lawyer, William Hawkins, arguing photographs in the media "may increase the stress" of her current pregnancy.

The scene of the crash. Photo: Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland
The scene of the crash. Photo: Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland

The summary of facts released by the court says Skipper was driving a Nissan Primera, heading towards Flaxmere at about 5pm on January 13, 2016.

She was a forbidden driver at the time, as she didn't have a driver's licence. She did not own the vehicle, but had driven it on many previous occasions.

Skipper's 11-year-old sister was in the front seat, and her 2-year-old daughter, Saphire Skipper-Hira, was in a child seat in the back seat of the car behind the front passenger.

The 2-year-old was not wearing a seat belt or any restraints.

Skipper was driving south, when she lost control of the car on a straight piece of road, in a 100km/h section of State Highway 50A, causing it to veer right across the centre line towards oncoming traffic in the north-bound lane.

Witnesses described the car as suddenly veering or "ricocheting" right across the road. It continued to slide across the other lane, before leaving the road and sliding across a large grass area, travelling over a concrete culvert and colliding into a dirt bank on the other side of the ditch.

The car rolled along the dirt bank before coming to rest back on all four wheels.

The young child was flung from the vehicle as it was rolling along the dirt bank.


Skipper was taken to hospital with only minor injuries. A blood sample was taken for the purpose of determining if alcohol or drugs were in her system.

The result of the blood analysis confirmed there was no evidence of any alcohol, but her blood sample did contain the class A controlled drug, methamphetamine.

During the 15-minute trial in front of Judge Tony Adeane at the Napier District Court, Hawkins applied for the charge of causing a death while under the influence of meth to be amended and reduced to a lesser one, so there would be a lesser penalty.

The application for a different charge to be laid was declined by the judge.

Judge Tony Adeane told the court that the current charge has been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

At an earlier court appearance, Skipper pleaded guilty to one charge of driving while forbidden for being unlicensed at the time of the crash.

Skipper has been remanded back on bail, to be sentenced on both charges next month.