A Rotorua surgeon who caused the death of an adored community devotee whenher car hit a motor scooter has had her conviction thrown out on appeal in the High Court.
Dr Blaithin Patricia Page was convicted of careless driving causing death last year after colliding with elderly motor scooter rider Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan, 87, in September 2018.
Hawkes-Buchanan's son said in his view the court's ruling made his mother's death seem "trivial". However, the lawyer acting for Page said the death had a "huge impact" on the doctor and, given her role as a surgeon, she was "acutely aware" of what life meant.
• Rotorua surgeon Dr Blaithin Page convicted of careless driving causing death of Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan
• Rotorua surgeon Dr Blaithin Page appealing careless driving causing death conviction, sentence
• Premium - Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan's family speak out after Rotorua surgeon Dr Blaithin Page sentenced over road death
• Woman admits careless driving causing death of elderly scooter-rider
Judge Tony Snell sentenced Page last year to 100 hours' community work, ordered her to pay $5000 for emotional harm and disqualified her from driving for 15 months.
Page was on her way to work at Rotorua Hospital at 7.25am on September 25 when the crash happened.
She pulled out from the Give Way sign at the T-intersection of Arawa and Rangiuru Streets and didn't see Hawkes-Buchanan, despite her bright helmet and scooter and headlight shining.
Hawkes-Buchanan was knocked off her scooter and slid across the road. Page tried to help at the scene but Hawkes-Buchanan died later that day in hospital from internal bleeding.
Hawkes-Buchanan was described in court hearings as a "supportive mother, a supportive grandmother, a staunch member of the Catholic Church and was involved in 50 years of community service".
She volunteered with groups ranging from the RSA to the Red Cross.
Page's lawyer, Andrew Schulze, challenged Judge Snell's assessments of the gravity of the offending and the consequences for Page in an appeal to Justice Alisa Duffy in the High Court. The decision was released this month.
In her decision, Justice Duffy questioned the impact of a conviction on Page's attempt to secure permanent residence and the effect it would have should she have to seek employment overseas.
The appeal said Rotorua District Court Judge Tony Snell, who sentenced Page, had "failed to assess the gravity of the offending and he failed to recognise the consequences of a conviction were out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending".
Duffy said: "Accordingly, I am satisfied that here the consequences of conviction are out of all proportion to the gravity of Dr Page's offending.
"The appeal is allowed and the conviction is set aside."
Hawkes-Buchanan's son, John Hawkes, told the Rotorua Daily Post: "We all know she's (Page) a marvellous woman but, mistake or not, she caused the death of my mother and it doesn't wash with me. If you do the crime, you take the crime.''
"To say we were disappointed is an understatement ... it trivialises mum's death."
Hawkes said if his mother was alive today, she would have liked to see consequences for actions.
"I think she would have been very disappointed ... At the end of the day, she (Page) has … got away with not having a conviction."
He said what hurt the most was his mother was incredibly active despite her age.
"It's not like she's sitting at home waiting for something to happen. She was out there doing stuff and we almost had to make an appointment to see her she was that busy."
Speaking on behalf of Page, counsel Schulz told the Rotorua Daily Post the case was simply dealt with on the matters before the court.
"This has had a huge impact on my client. She did all she could. The fact she is a surgeon, she is acutely aware of what a life is and what it means."
The appeal decision said the emotional harm reparation of $5000 imposed by Judge Snell still stood but the 15 months disqualification from driving was replaced with 12 months as both parties agreed it was "excessive".