Judge loath to 'crush' lives of teen killers

Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013
Adam King
'OVERWHELMING REMORSE': Adam King in the dock in the Masterton District Court, where he was sentenced for careless driving while drunk, causing the death of his friend and passenger Tyler Swinbank.

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Two teenagers who caused car crashes that killed their friends have been given sentences designed to ensure their lives are not "crushed" along with those of their young passengers.

Adam James King, 19, and Amanda Rose, 18, were each told by Judge Barbara Morris that she was taking into account their suffering over having killed a close friend.

Masterton District Court heard King and Tyler Swinbank, 17, worked together on a farm south of Martinborough. On the night of May 29, they went out drinking and about 10.30pm were on a rural road when King, who was driving, took a corner too fast and hit a power pole, killing Tyler instantly.

"You lay trapped in the car for a number of hours beside your friend, knowing he had died at your hand," Judge Morris said.

Tests found King had 55 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit for a person under 20 is zero.

The judge said victim-impact statements spoke of a family ripped to pieces, while a probation report said King experienced "overwhelming remorse and grief", to the point that he had tried to kill himself.

He was convicted of careless driving while drunk, causing Tyler's death.

King's lawyer Philip Morgan, QC, said that, while this type of offending usually resulted in a jail term, mitigating factors included King's remorse, good character, lack of any previous convictions, youth, injuries, and the profound effects on him of the knowledge he had killed his friend. "They were kindred spirits," Morgan said.

Judge Morris sentenced King to five months' community detention, designed to be "home detention in all but name", as he would have to be home by 7pm on weeknights and all weekend, and could only go to and from his farm work.

She said her sentence acknowledged the seriousness of the offending but was designed not to "crush another life".

She ordered King to have drug and alcohol counselling and to make $2000 reparation and $2000 emotional harm payments to Tyler's family, and disqualified him from driving for 15 months.

During Amanda Rose's sentencing soon afterwards, the court heard that neither alcohol nor speed were factors in the February 21 crash north of Masterton that killed her friend Tegan Moyes, 16.

Police prosecutor Garry Wilson said sentencing should take into account only Rose's carelessness, which was at the low end of the scale, and not be influenced by the feelings of Wairarapa people about a "very tragic period" earlier this year when several young people died on the roads.

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Judge Morris said Rose was careless in allowing her car to drift off tar seal and on to gravel beside the road, then overcorrecting, causing the car to roll and Tegan to be thrown out.

But her carelessness was "at extreme odds to its consequences", and her sentence would be insignificant compared with what Rose had to bear on her shoulders, and it should not "destroy" another life.

She sentenced Rose to 100 hours' community work, ordered her to take a defensive driving course, and disqualified her from driving for 10 months.

- The Dominion Post

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