Lessons learned from tragedy
A day before being sentenced for the drink-drive killing of New Plymouth artist Carmen Rogers, Hogan Bolton and Rogers' older daughter Nouveau stood before Spotswood College students imploring them never to do what he had done.
And yesterday, in keeping with the wishes of Carmen's husband Che, Bolton was spared a jail sentence.
Bolton, 31, an oil worker, was sentenced in the New Plymouth District Court to nine months' home detention after pleading guilty to drink-driving causing Rogers' death on May 6.
He was taken off the road for two years.
Rogers suffered fatal head injuries when Bolton's SUV hit her in New Plymouth's Brougham St just before 5pm that day.
She was standing beside her parked car, unlocking it, when she was hit. Bolton was so drunk - his breath alcohol was 1297 micrograms, well over the legal limit of 400mcg - that he was unaware he had hit her. He drove on, stopping at the traffic lights. It was left to someone who saw what happened to bang on his window and take his keys from the ignition.
Rogers' key was still in her car door, bent out of shape.
The lack of a prison sentence for Bolton has split Rogers' family.
The clinchers for Judge Allan Roberts were Bolton's deep remorse, his clean record, and his agreement to follow the wishes of Che Rogers, Carmen's husband, which were worked out at a day-long restorative justice meeting.
Bolton has already paid the family $50,000 to assist Carmen Roger's two daughters.
Che Rogers told the judge he did not want Bolton wasting both his time and taxpayers' money in jail.
He asked instead that Bolton put his time to more effect by educating others on the dangers of drinking and driving including by being part of an educational documentary - and thereby potentially saving future lives. That documentary is well under way.
The lack of a prison sentence has upset Carmen Roger's sister and brother-in-law, Sharon Boag and Stephen Steele, as well as her older teenage daughter Nouveau. All three wanted Bolton to serve a prison term.
Nouveau broke down sobbing after the sentencing. She told the Daily News that while she respected her father's opinion, she wanted Bolton to be jailed.
The court was told that Bolton himself expected a jail sentence.
Che Rogers said in choosing to drink then drive that day, Bolton had played Russian roulette with people's lives "with the worst possible outcome".
"Carmen is now dead, cut from her prime because of Hogan's choices. This has left me to raise and care for the girls on my own."
But sending him to prison was of no benefit to them, the victims, or to Hogan, he said. "It's just a large financial expense to the community and taxpayer."
Instead, he wanted Bolton to take steps to ensure he would not drink and drive again; to share his story publicly to encourage others not to drink and drive and to compensate the girls through a financial contribution to their future. The steps would work towards a positive and healing outcome for Bolton and them, the victims, he said.
A rehabilitative sentence would be what his wife would have wanted.
After the sentencing, the officer in charge of the case, Detective Drew Bennett, described Carmen Rogers' husband as an "incredible human being".
While his brother-in-law Stephen Steele said he too was impressed with him, he wept when telling the Daily News at the family home yesterday that Bolton should have had jail as part of his sentence.
Bolton got to go home to his wife while Carmen was cold in the ground, Steele said.
REMORSE AND EARLY PLEA SAVED DRIVER FROM JAIL
The judge started with a three year jail sentence for a Hogan Lawrence Bolton, but finished with a nine-month community-based sentence.
At sentencing in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke said the major aggravating feature of the loss of life was Bolton's extremely high alcohol level, at three times the limit of 400 mcg.
But there were a large number of mitigating features - an extremely early guilty plea, genuine remorse and a $50,000 payment to the bereaved family towards making some amends.
Everyone was of the same view, money could not return a life, but Carmen Roger's husband Che was supportive of the payment for their daughters' education, Clarke said.
Clarke said the restorative justice meeting was one of the most effective she had ever seen.
The parties had spent a day together where Bolton's apologies helped in the healing process. He also agreed to take part in an educational documentary.
Bolton had an unblemished criminal record. While it was a terrible outcome, Bolton was otherwise a good person who made a very bad decision to drive after consuming a large amount of alcohol.
There was no other driving error. He had not crossed Brougham St but had just earlier swerved to avoid a car coming out of a carpark on his left.
The prosecutor suggested a start point of four years' jail.
For Bolton, Kylie Pascoe said there were many family members and supporters in court for Bolton. The death had an irreversible impact on them also.
Bolton had given his sincere apologies to the bereaved and he was well aware of the tidal wave effect Carmen Roger's death had on the community. He had a profound regret for his detestable behaviour on the day.
Pascoe also suggested a start point of four years jail but submitted there was no other dangerous or reckless driving behaviour, and a "vast array" of mitigating factors which could reduce the jail time to one of home detention.
His genuine remorse was at the highest level. He was held in high regard by his work colleagues.
In sentencing, Judge Allan Roberts said Bolton had caused the death of Carmen Rogers when grossly exceeding the allowable alcohol limit. He had chosen to drive after drinking at a liquor outlet until the late afternoon.
For some unexplained reasons he drifted to the left. He knocked Carmen Rogers to the ground causing massive head injuries. She subsequently died of those injuries.
"You expect today to go to jail. You wish the best for those affected by your irresponsible behaviour."
The judge started with three years' jail, reducing it by 25 per cent for the early guilty plea and an additional credit for Bolton's deep remorse, his payment of the $50,000 and his good character.
"It took some fortitude to engage in the restorative justice process which went for 7 hours. It is part of your redemption."
The end sentence was 18 months' prison was transposed to nine months' home detention.
"You have not shied away from your responsibilities," the judge said.
Bolton also lost his licence for two years.
Taranaki Daily News