Game of chicken leaves lifelong scars
A young driver left a friend with lifelong injuries after a game of chicken went wrong, a judge has found.
At a sentencing hearing yesterday, Judge Bruce Davidson said Jordan Holmes, 21, of Paraparaumu, "blatantly should have stopped or slowed down dramatically" to avoid the accident on October 19, 2012.
Holmes was the sober driver when he went out with friends to a pub in Raumati. He walked to pick up a friend's car, and was driving at 55kmh to 65kmh when he saw four mates standing on the road.
He continued to drive towards them without slowing down.
"This was a spontaneous decision by some or all of them to play chicken . . . there was no apparent attempt by you to slow down as you came close," Davidson said in Wellington District Court.
Holmes veered to the right, and three of the men stepped out of the way to the left, but Marcus French, also 21, stepped to the right and was struck by Holmes.
He went on to the bonnet and hit the windscreen before being thrown on to the road with such impact that a shoe was thrown 35 metres down the road, Davidson said.
French's injuries included fractures to his skull, both legs, his jaw and wrist. Ongoing head injuries had left him a "different young man to the one he was before".
Holmes had earlier been found guilty of dangerous driving causing injury at a jury trial.
His lawyer, Jewelly McVay, argued that his good character and remorse should be taken into account.
He had a good job with the New Zealand Army, which would be compromised by a prison sentence, she said.
But Crown lawyer Ian Miller argued that Holmes's remorse was doubtful, given that he had pleaded not guilty and tried to pass blame to the victim.
"He deliberately put himself in a situation that was inherently dangerous and put his friends at risk."
Davidson said Holmes had shown an "inkling of remorse", and also took into account that he stopped immediately to help.
But the "significant" impact on the victim was the aggravating factor.
"Your driving was quite dangerous in the circumstances. You deliberately put the car in a position of inherent danger, you had no true way of knowing how your friends on the roadway would react."
He sentenced Holmes to five months' community detention, 20 hours' community work, a 16-month disqualification from driving, and ordered him to pay $7000 reparation.
"[Prison] in my view would simply destroy another young life," the judge said.
Outside court, French's mother Melanie French agreed that two lives should not be destroyed and said she was pleased with the sentence. The reparation in particular meant Holmes would "be constantly reminded of what he's done to Marcus".
Her son was not the same person, and had been forced to give up a chef's apprenticeship two weeks before he completed it.
"His career was ruined before it started . . . He wants to be normal and he'll never be normal in the respect that most 21-year-olds are."
It was an important lesson not to play chicken, she said. "It's not fun.
"You can't muck around on the road - not with cars."
The Dominion Post