Jail for remorseful hit-run driver

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014

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A man who drove into a 5-year-old boy did not stop to check whether he was OK because others in the car were urging against it, a court has heard.

Joshua Manukapei Watson drove into Kayzah-Shae Wairama, who was riding his sister's bicycle in Flaxmere on August 13.

Watson, 27, handed himself in to police two days later and was charged with failing to stop after an accident.

Judge Jonathan Down, in sentencing Watson in the Hastings District Court yesterday, said: "This is a situation we see in New Zealand from time to time and it causes the public a great deal of concern and anxiety.

"I have absolutely no doubt that the parents of this young boy suffered much more by the fact you had not stopped and accepted responsibility."

The offending was serious and the need for deterrence so great that nothing short of a prison sentence was possible, the judge said.

Watson's lawyer, Mathew Phelps, said his client had pleaded guilty at an early stage and was remorseful for the "very nasty injuries" caused to the boy.

"It was a situation where Mr Watson's conscience told him to stop and check on this young boy, but regrettably he didn't have the fortitude to stand up to the peer pressure he was experiencing at the time," Mr Phelps said.

Others in the car told him not to go back, "and that's a source of considerable regret for Mr Watson".

Mr Phelps said Watson went to police two days later and made a "fulsome admission".

He noted that the boy's family had moved to Australia since the accident and it had not been possible for Watson to take part in a restorative justice process.

Kayzah-Shae suffered serious head injuries and spent weeks in Auckland's Starship children's hospital before he was well enough to go home.

Mr Phelps and Judge Down agreed the case was unusual in that Watson was not charged with a driving offence.

Judge Down said that Kayzah-Shae had been riding his bicycle down a driveway and it had not been possible to tell who was at fault.

He sentenced Watson to seven months in prison and banned him from driving for a year.

The sentence included one month on a separate charge of unlawfully getting into a vehicle.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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