Truckie given community work

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
Henry Tawhai
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ
AWAITING SENTENCE: Henry Tawhai leaves the High Court in New Plymouth after pleading guilty to operating a truck carrying an unsafe load steel pipes.

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LATEST: A truck driver involved in a crash that killed Urenui couple Ern and Nancy Sutton almost two years ago has been sentenced to community work.

Yesterday, Henry Anthony Tawhai, 55, pleaded guilty in the High Court in New Plymouth to committing criminal nuisance.

Today he was sentenced to 225 hours community work. He was not disqualified from driving, because he had already been stood down as a truck driver since the crash 21 months ago.

Yesterday, dramatic developments in the High Court  ended with Tawhai's guilty plea.

On Monday he faced trial after denying the Land Transport Act charge which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

The Crown told the jury that on May 28, 2012, Tawhai failed to ensure the load of pipes was secure on his Volvo truck and trailer unit and in so doing put the safety of the public at risk.

Tawhai had admitted he used only half the weight-rated strops and chains needed to safely tie down the 25-tonne load of eight steel pipes, Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke said.

As a result, about 2.30pm at Motunui on State Highway 3 as Tawhai drove north on his way to Auckland one or more of the ties broke, and the load shifted.

Tawhai lost control of the truck and trailer unit which overturned. The pipe went flying into the path of the car of Ern and Nancy Sutton as they headed south toward New Plymouth, Ms Clarke said.

Tragically, the two died at the scene, she said.

But in the High Court in New Plymouth yesterday morning, Justice Toogood ruled a mistrial and released the jury after the Taranaki Daily News online publication on Monday revealed that a series of more serious charges against Tawhai had been dropped.

Justice Toogood told the jury that both the Crown and defence counsel Susan Hughes, QC, expressed their concern that publication of the earlier dropped charges could undermine a fair trial.

Justice not only needed to be done but should be seen to be done, the judge said.

To be fair to the Daily News, once the problems were pointed out to them it was removed, the judge said.

The earlier charges did not appear in the print addition, Justice Toogood said.

In response yesterday, Daily News editor Roy Pilott acknowledged the error and said the dropped charges were added during the editing process.

Then, late yesterday afternoon Tawhai changed his plea to guilty to the charge of committing criminal nuisance. Judge Toogood remanded Tawhai on bail for sentencing at midday today.

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It is expected that the Sutton family, several of whom have been in court throughout the last two days, will submit victim impact statements.

- Taranaki Daily News

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