An Auckland man lost a plea to avoid a driving disqualification after a momentary glance to check his speed caused a highway pile-up, leaving one woman dead.

Philip Bothwell had earlier admitted charges of careless driving causing the death of grandmother Eiko Hawthorne and injuring her daughter and the driver of another vehicle in a smash on State Highway 1B near Gordonton on January 17 this year.

He told police he'd just checked what speed he was travelling at - 78km/h - before noticing Hawthorne's vehicle was immediately before him after coming to a stop in a sudden line-up of traffic.

He had no time to stop his Ford Ranger and crashed into the back of the stationary vehicle, immediately killing Hawthorne and seriously injuring her daughter, Michelle, who was driving.


Michelle Hawthorne's then 10-month-old baby boy was in the backseat but was uninjured due to being in a car seat.

Bothwell's vehicle continued on to hit a Toyota which was in front of Hawthorne's vehicle, which had been shunted out into oncoming traffic, hitting a northbound Nissan vehicle which was towing a trailer.

The driver of that vehicle, John Green, 73, was also seriously injured but has since recovered.

Michelle Hawthorne, 40, of Hamilton, addressed Community Magistrate Terry Bourke as well as Bothwell during his sentencing in the Hamilton District Court this morning on the three charges.

She told the court the impact had not only affected her and her family financially and physically but also emotionally at having suddenly lost her mother.

Initial reports of the crash wrongly stated she had caused the crash, which had caused further distress and left her suffering post traumatic stress disorder. She also struggled when driving, especially when looking in the rearview mirror.

She also suffered serious injuries to her liver, lungs and pelvis which meant she couldn't walk unaided or properly care for her newborn.

Despite her mother's death, both she and her brother Roger accepted Bothwell's remorse.


Bothwell, through his lawyer Mark Hammond, had asked for Bourke not to impose a driving disqualification as it would have a significant impact on his family financially.

He'd had an unblemished driving history, despite clocking up "unusually large" kilometres for his job.

He was genuinely remorseful and had attended a restorative justice conference where the victims accepted that the crash was caused by a momentary lapse in concentration.

They had also accepted an emotional harm reparation of $5000, which was paid prior to this morning's court appearance.

Police prosecutor Leaney Preiss opposed the driving disqualification and in fact asked for an uplift due to the seriousness of the impact of Bothwell's driving.

Bourke accepted the crash was caused by a momentary lapse in concentration that wasn't seen as an aggravating factor, but it had caused "enormous consequences".

He said pleaded guilty to "the sort of driver behaviour that 99 times out of 100 means nothing comes of it or a very minor nose to tail crash".

Bourke found the line-up of traffic was "somewhere in between" unexpected and an emergency queue, seeing him look at his dash "at the worst possible time".

He said Bothwell was not a driver that was a risk to the public, "just on that occasion at that time you dropped the ball".

He also accepted that Bothwell could not pay anymore than the $5000 emotional harm but ordered he pay $500 emotional harm to Green.

Bourke also sentenced Bothwell to 150 hours' community work and disqualified him from driving for six months.