Damian Lawson jailed for five years for killing 'love of his life' in police chase
A driver who killed "the love of his life" while trying to get away from police has been jailed for five years.
Damian Andrew Lawson, 43, of Levin, said he had no intention of driving again, but a judge at the High Court in Wellington on Friday banned him from driving for five years after his release from prison anyway.
The May 21, 2016, crash on Kenepuru Drive in Porirua killed Lawson's passenger, whose name was suppressed at the request of her family. She had just celebrated her 21st birthday.
Three days short of the anniversary of her death her mother read a victim impact statement in court. What she said could not be reported, but Lawson listened in the dock behind her, looking down and wiping his eyes.
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He pleaded guilty to reckless driving causing death and was sentenced to five years jail.
Justice Susan Thomas said Lawson had written a letter to the court. He said the victim was the love of his life. The judge accepted his remorse, acceptance of responsibility and his wish for rehabilitation was genuine.
Lawson said he had been concerned for the victim's mental health and was trying to take her to hospital but the judge said if that was true he should have stopped when the police first started following him, and asked for help.
The judge said he had two previous convictions for dangerous driving, five for reckless driving, one for careless, seven for failing to stop for police, and others for driving while disqualified.
Lawson was driving a car with a warrant of fitness that had expired nearly five months earlier, and he was driving in breach of a condition of his licence that his driving be supervised by a fully licensed driver.
He had also used methamphetamine and cannabis that night.
There was a warrant out for his arrest because he had earlier failed to appear in court as required.
A police summary said at about 8.30pm Lawson had been parked near Titahi Bay Rd, Porirua, when a passing police patrol drove closer to check the registration plate.
The check revealed that the registration plate should have been on a different coloured car. As police approached to speak to the driver Lawson drove off travelling about 10kmh above the 70kmh limit for the area.
Police said they were about 200m behind without using lights and sirens.
But when he cut across two lanes at a roundabout police started the lights and sirens to signal him to stop.
Lawson kept driving and at a major roundabout, the Mungavin interchange, he lost control, the car spun around, hit a median barrier and ended up facing the wrong way.
Police stopped at the give way sign looking for Lawson who started driving the wrong way around the interchange, passed the police car and drove across the 300m Mungavin overbridge on the wrong side of the road.
At the next roundabout Lawson turned left on to Kenepuru Drive where he overtook a bus and narrowly missed an oncoming vehicle.
Doing at least 107kmh in a 50kmh zone, and with the police car about 100m behind, Lawson's car overtook another car on a "blind" corner and had to swerve to avoid an oncoming vehicle.
Lawson's car "fishtailed" several times, he lost control and it slid across the road, through a metal pole fence, and hit a large pohutukawa tree behind the fence in the grounds of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research.
The passenger side of the vehicle caved in about 450mm, compacting the victim's seat to about one-third its original width.
The victim died from her injuries.
Lawson later told police that the victim was unwell and he had been taking her to hospital.
He said she had put the car into reverse immediately before the crash but police said analysis of the transmission showed that did not happen.
Lawson admitted smoking methamphetamine about an hour before driving.
He was seriously injured in the crash, broke his neck, fractured his back, and suffered serious head injuries.