Edgeware killer gets 17 years jail
Double murderer will stay in jail until he is at least 40
Lipine Sila is "scum" and a "thug" and a 17-year prison sentence is not long enough, the father of one of his murder victims says.
Sila, 23, was today sentenced to life in prison with a 17-year minimum non-parole period for the murder of Christchurch school girls Hannah Rossiter and Jane Young.
He was found guilty of their murders after a five week trial earlier this year.
The pair were mown down by Sila's car outside an out-of-control party on Edgeware Rd in Christchurch.
Justice Fogarty sentenced him to 17 years for a "reckless rather than deliberate'' killing of the 16 year old school girls.
The Crown had sought a 20-year term.
After the sentencing Harry Young, father of Jane, said his victim impact statement had been censored.
He said the prison term was "pitifully inadequate.''
"Life should mean life. The justice system is biased against law and order.''
He said he had wanted to call Sila a thug and scum.
Asked about forgiveness, Young said: "What he needs is a violent death.''
The session heard victim impact reports read by 12 people, including those hit by the car that Sila powered through the crowd that night in May last year, and family members of the dead and injured.
Justice Fogarty explained to the court that Parliament set a guideline of 17-years minimum non-parole as part of a life term in cases where two people had been murdered.
He could not see any reason to reduce the term for being manifestly excessive. But he did not agree with the call by crown prosecutor Anne Toohey for the term to be increased to 20 years.
He said he had to regard the jury's verdict as indicating they regarded it as "reckless killing''. From the questions they had asked during their deliberations, he was convinced they had been considering whether it was "reckless murder or manslaughter''.
He said it would be quite wrong to sentence on the basis that it was "deliberate murder''.
Prosecutor Anne Toohey had said that the jury rejected the idea that Sila had driven into the crowd because of panic and fear for his life. It had found there was intentional behaviour in driving at the people.
Victims of Sila's offending had spoken of his apparent lack of remorse in their statements to the court.
Young told of his "swagger'' into and out of court which the jury never saw during the trial, and the way he smiled and waved to family and friends.
A close friend of Jane Young, who narrowly missed being hit herself as her friend was killed, said: "The fact that he has never accepted responsibility or said he was sorry, has been difficult to cope with.''
Sila stood in the dock for 90 minutes while the victims read their statements and while their words were translated into Samoan for him. He never looked at them, but kept facing straight ahead to the judge.
Once or twice he wiped his eyes, and when he was allowed to sit a court staff member took him tissues so he could wipe his tears.
And then, as defence counsel Pip Hall stood, came the apology: "First and foremost, on behalf of Lipine Sila, I wish to express his extreme remorse and sadness about the damage and devastation his actions have caused to all affected.''
"Rubbish,'' someone called from the public seats.
In the probation report, Sila apologises "from the bottom of my heart and feeling sorry and sad''. He says he wishes he had the power to bring the victims back.
"I know that what will happen to me will not be good, but it is nothing compared to what those girls and their families have gone through.''
Family members told how much they missed the two girls, Jane Young and Hannah Rossiter, and the court heard how Sila's actions had damaged bodies and broken up families.
Hall said as he left that there was no talk of an appeal. Crown prosecutor Anne Toohey said, "I can't comment, sorry.''
Ben Devine, who was in a coma for weeks after the incident, struggled to read his statement in court.
He suffered brain damage and spoke of how people said his personality had changed, and how he had difficulties with concentration and problem solving.
Outside the court, he spoke of reading his statement. "I felt after I read it there was a weight lifted off my shoulders.''
At his trial in May the Crown contended that an angry, bleeding Sila had exacted an appalling toll on a crowd of young Christchurch partygoers.
The prosecution said Sila left a trail of dead and broken bodies Sila left in his wake as he drove at speed into a crowd leaving a party in Edgeware Road, St Albans, on May 5 last year.
The worst of the injuries were suffered by Hannah Rossiter and Jane Young, both 16, who died within 35 minutes of each other in Christchurch Hospital about 1am on May 6.
The jury was told how an angry Sila, covered in blood from a cut to his ear, sped "foot to the floor, engine screaming" through about 100 young people leaving the 20th birthday party, to which most had not been invited.
Sila has been charged with the murder of Hannah and Jane and with causing grievous bodily harm to eight others:
* Felicity Tewnion: Moderate brain injury, deep cut to head, bruised lung, broken pubic bone, left elbow fracture, broken right thigh bone.
* Kyle Rempala: Head injury, broken neck, broken back, bruised lung, broken rib, facial fracture, broken right leg.
* Ben Devine: Severe head injury, chest and abdomen wall injuries, lumbar fracture, right knee injury, left leg contusion, facial fractures.
* Ben Luxton: Fractured shoulder-blade, collar-bone and thumb.
* Jessica Shuker: Fractured shin bone.
* Name suppressed: Cuts to leg and heel.
* Beaumont Lagatule: Two bones broken in lower leg [ed 1: broken in shin].
* Chris Davies: Several breaks in right shin.
The incident was sparked by a fight earlier. Sila had been cut by a bottle which was smashed over his head.
He accelerated from where he was parked in Edgeware Road and hit the first group, containing Luxton, Shuker and Lagatule, who received less serious injuries because the car was not going fast.
Sila had then swerved onto the wrong side of the road in a direct line with people coming from the party at 95 Edgeware Road.
He hit Felicity Tewnion, who was only half a metre out on the road from the footpath.
Sila had swerved again to hit Jane and her boyfriend, Chris Davies, who were just leaving the party.
A witness had felt Jane Young "fly past her" and land two houses down from the point of impact with a fatal brain injury.
Hannah Rossiter had been standing in the driveway with her back to Sila's vehicle. She was struck from behind with the right headlight of the car and flew backwards into the windscreen and over the roof.
Sila had then hit Ben Devine and Kyle Rempala.
Still with the car at full throttle, Sila had run a red light, collided with another car in nearby Westminster Street and later hit a van before driving his battered car home to Skipton Street, Shirley, where he and his brother, Ben, had had more beer, the court was told.
Although Sila did not want to talk about what had happened, he told his brother and his brother's girlfriend that God had told him to get away from people chasing him.
Sila's defence team argued that his mind was blank during the incident and he could not have formed the intent legally required by the murder charges against him.
Sila had no motive to injure, maim or kill and no intention to do so, defence lawyer Pip Hall said.
"He was literally in a blind panic in the vital seven seconds as he drove westward quickly on Edgeware Road. And he never turned his mind to the consequences of what his actions might cause such as serious injury or worse. His intent was to escape as soon as possible from what was a highly volatile, aggressive and dangerous situation."
Sila had told the police he was not thinking of anything and his mind was, "as it were, a blank and you might think that indicative of blind panic," Hall said.
By any view of the evidence the number of intoxicated and disorderly people on Edgeware Road was large, he said.
Sila had been quite severely assaulted, suffering a bottle blow to the head, a knock to the ground and a further two punches to the head. Any intent of Sila had to be viewed from his perspective, Hall said. Sila had not seen the police around the corner and did not know help was close at hand.
"He was surrounded by a large drunken crowd and angry and aggressive strangers."
- with Christchurch Court News
- © Fairfax NZ News
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