Your kid could be killed next, dad says

SAM BOYER
Last updated 05:00 19/04/2013
Gavin Hawthorn
CRAIG SIMCOX/Fairfax NZ
GAVIN HAWTHORN: The killer driver will be released from prison in June.

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A killer driver described as "a loaded gun" behind the wheel could be back on the road as soon as he is freed from prison in June.

The father of one of the four people killed by Gavin Hawthorn is certain the recidivist drink-driver will strike again once he is freed.

Hawthorn, 50, was jailed for 10 years in 2004 for the manslaughter of Lance Fryer in Wairarapa.

Mr Fryer was the fourth person killed on the roads by Hawthorn, who has been described by the Parole Board as having a high risk of reoffending and an "extraordinary criminal history".

At his 2004 sentencing, Justice MacKenzie told Hawthorn: "In your hands, the car which you were driving was a lethal weapon. It was as dangerous as a loaded gun."

Gary Fryer, 68, believes it's only a matter of time before the man who killed his youngest son is back on the road destroying another family.

"If he comes out now, it'll only be a matter of time ... he hasn't learned any lessons at all.

"I'm just dreading the fact that when he does get out, [he'll think] 'Where's the closest car yard?'

"It could be your kid or your grandkid out driving, you just don't know. If you happen to be in the same place [as Hawthorn driving] it could be 50-50, couldn't it? Public beware."

Hawthorn killed two passengers in 1989 when his car crossed the centre line while he was drink-driving. A third person died 15 months later, after surgery to correct damage from the crash.

Among Hawthorn's many convictions are eight others for drink-driving, 10 for driving while disqualified, three for dangerous driving, and one for careless driving, as well as others for burglary, theft, drugs and violence.

His record of offending dates back to 1979 and includes eight stints in prison.

His driving licence was revoked for 10 years at his sentencing but, once he is freed, he may soon be able to reapply for it.

The Parole Board is able to impose additional driving restrictions for six months - but Mr Fryer said Hawthorn's history meant he was likely to flout any ban.

"It doesn't matter a bit when he's licensed, it doesn't mean anything to him. Using the words of the prosecuting officer of the trial: 'This joker thinks he's got the God-given right [to drive]'.

"If somebody's convicted and sentenced to jail and doesn't accept any rehabilitation or treatment ... then nothing's changed. It'll still be the same when he gets out."

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Hawthorn waived his right to appear before the Parole Board yesterday but he has to be freed within two months. In May, the board will set the conditions for his June 4 release.

On March 21, at his most recent parole appearance, Hawthorn was assessed as having a high risk of reoffending.

"Mr Hawthorn has an incredible criminal history," the decision read.

"The record is extensive and serious. It involves atrocious driving offences. The deaths of four people were caused in consequence of two of those instances."

A psychological report said he was "unmotivated for any treatment" and declined any engagement with psychologists.

A 2011 psychologist's report said Hawthorn needed a strict release plan to address his risk factors: "Given Mr Hawthorn's high level of disregard for the safety of other road users, including driving when he is disqualified and intoxicated, it is suggested that he be monitored closely with regard to access to motor vehicles upon release."

- The Dominion Post

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