Teen 'drove like a madman'

Last updated 08:53 06/08/2014
nelson van crash

WRECKED: The small van after crashing down a 15-metre bank and then having its door cut open.

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With minimal driving experience, the effects of synthetic cannabis, and a brain injury which limited his field of vision,  a teenager drove through Nelson ‘‘like a madman’’ as he sped home to meet his bail curfew, a court has heard.

Liam Shane Marsh, 18, drove down Brook St at 100km on March 28, narrowly missing a cyclist before swerving onto the other side of the road, over the curb and down a 20-metre bank.

The car struck and demolished a clothesline, compost bin and raised garden in a Sugarloaf Place property.
Marsh broke his pelvis and fractured his arm in the crash.

Judge Tony Zohrab described the summary of facts as ‘‘almost comical’’ when he sentenced Marsh in the Nelson District Court yesterday.

Marsh had earlier admitted two counts of assaulting a person with a car, theft of a vehicle and dangerous driving. The charges related to the theft of a courtesy car from Auto Super Shoppe in Gloucester St. Marsh had walked past and seen the keys in the ignition.

He attempted to drive off with the car when employee Aidan Hogarth put his hands on the bonnet and another man tried to grab Marsh through the window.

Hogarth had to jump out of the way to avoid getting run over, and the other victim was struck by the side of the vehicle and knocked down. Neither man suffered notable injuries.

The court earlier heard Marsh did not have a licence and had only driven on a farm. He had admitted to smoking synthetic cannabis.

The judge said that despite Marsh’s visual, chemical and experiential impairments, he had driven like a madman down busy streets, and it was only thanks to good luck that he had not injured anybody besides himself.

The judge said Marsh’s sentencing was complicated by personal circumstances. A report commissioned to determine whether Marsh was fit to stand trial revealed he had neurocognitive impairments from an event in his childhood which affected his development and conduct.

A psychiatrist’s report expressed concern that prison would be unlikely to deter Marsh from reoffending and would only enhance his identification with, and high regard for, people with antisocial tendencies.

The judge said he was aware that Marsh would be ‘‘very much vulnerable’’ in a prison environment, and that any sentence he was eligible for would be too short to provide effective treatment.

He sentenced Marsh to two years’ intensive supervision with judicial monitoring, ordered him to complete appropriate assessments, alcohol and drug intervention and a remediative residential programme. Marsh must pay $4725 in reparations.

The judge also disqualified Marsh from holding or obtaining a driver’s license for four years, adding that he personally felt Marsh should ‘‘never, ever’’ get behind the wheel of a car again.

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‘‘It seems pretty clear to me that you are not suitable for driving.’’

- The Nelson Mail

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