A pensioner who ran over and killed a "pillar of the community" says she willingly accepts punishment, and suffers under the burden of what she did.

Alison Ngaire Cooper, 76, was today convicted of careless driving causing death. She was sentenced to $4000 in emotional harm reparations to Aporo Joyce's family, and disqualified from driving for six months.

Cooper was driving in Tawa, in June this year, when she hit and killed Joyce, a former policeman and community advocate.

She told police she hadn't seen him when he stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing.

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The public gallery of the Porirua District Court was packed for the sentencing, with Cooper's family filling the left side of the court, and the Joyce family on the right.

Before sentencing defence lawyer Elizabeth Hall said Cooper was deeply upset about what had happened, and willingly accepted the punishment she knew she needed to face.

"Nothing can change what happened, it's an example of a moment's inattention, with devastating consequences.

"Mrs Cooper takes full responsibility for what has happened, by entering her guilty plea at the earliest possible opportunity, and by writing a letter to the family to express her deepest sadness for causing the loss of this much-loved man."

Aporo Joyce, seen here at the RSA Porirua clubrooms in 2006, was run over and killed while walking home from a day out with friends on June 21 when he stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing on Main Rd, Tawa. Photo / NZ Herald Archives
Aporo Joyce, seen here at the RSA Porirua clubrooms in 2006, was run over and killed while walking home from a day out with friends on June 21 when he stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing on Main Rd, Tawa. Photo / NZ Herald Archives

Cooper had met with the Joyce family as part of the restorative justice process. Evidence presented to the court said that the Joyce family didn't hold a grudge against her, with some even hoping the court would be lenient.

"They do indeed hope, both sides of the family, that lessons will be learned," Hall said.

"They do hope that as we enter this Christmas period with many people on the road, that people will take care."

Hall said Cooper lived in an area without public transport, but wasn't filing an application against being disqualified from driving. She had also put aside some of her life savings to make sure she could pay reparations.

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At the beginning of the hearing Judge James Johnston took a moment to acknowledge both families in court, telling them "nga mihi nui, thank you for coming here today".

As he moved to sentence Cooper, Judge Johnston said she seemed truly remorseful, and that sentencing for such cases was very difficult.

"I note that you have no previous criminal convictions whatsoever, for criminal matters or driving matters.

"Cases of this matter are some of the most difficult in terms of the moral and also legal judgments that must be made.

"The offending may be at the low end of the spectrum, but the consequences are often so catastrophic.

"Any sentence imposed by the court will often be seen as a hopelessly inadequate one for the damage done. Thankfully the restorative justice process provides some guidance."

Judge Johnston said the victim impact statements showed the Joyce family had lost a kaumatua who was deeply loved, but their family also acknowledged Cooper and her family would struggle to deal with what had happened.

"They make it clear that the Joyce whanau holds no grudge against you, there was even the comment that some of the Joyce whanau wanted to support you and hope the court shows some leniency to you.

"That certainly says a lot about the restorative justice process, and the nature of the Joyce whanau."

Cooper appeared to tear up as her conviction was entered.

On June 21 at 5.54pm Aporo Joyce was walking home from a day out with friends, when he stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing on Main Rd, Tawa.

Cooper hit him with the front of her car, throwing him on to the road and running over him. The car came to a stop with Joyce underneath it.

He had serious injuries and died at the scene.

Cooper told police she had suffered a moment's inattention, and didn't see him.