Thursday, 12 June 2008

Woman who killed friend avoids prison

A Canberra woman who admitted killing her best friend by crashing her car into a brick letterbox, then another vehicle, while under the influence of drugs and alcohol has escaped a full-time prison sentence.

Samantha Jane Moffat, 33, had pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to culpable driving causing death over the April 2007 accident which left her friend Lynn Herringe, 43, dead.

Justice Hilary Penfold, in sentencing Moffat on Thursday, said there were "no winners" in such a tragic case and no sentence, however severe, would bring Ms Herringe back.

Moffat was sentenced to 12 months' periodic detention with a further 12 months suspended.

She was also placed on a three-year good behaviour bond and disqualified from driving for the same period.

Justice Penfold told Moffat she should use her time in weekend detention - which starts on Friday - to seek treatment for her mental health problem and alcohol abuse issues.

Moffat was driving Ms Herringe's car to get cigarettes when she crashed in the early hours of April 29 last year killing her passenger.

The court heard Moffat was doing 85km/h in a 60km/h zone and was under the influence of amphetamines and alcohol.

She recorded a blood alcohol level of 0.185.

Justice Penfold said she had taken Moffat's early guilty plea into account when determining the sentence.

The plea avoided an expensive trial, demonstrated remorse and saved Ms Herringe's family the trauma of a long court case, she said.

During sentencing proceedings, widower Peter Herringe read aloud a victim impact statement detailing how his family had been devastated by the death of his wife of 20 years.

He also, in his statement, told the court his wife's twin sister, Gaye, had committed suicide just five weeks after Ms Herringe's death.

The court heard a mental health report stating that Moffat, who has a 12-year-old son, had been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and was at a high risk of committing suicide.

The report said she had suffered guilt and remorse since the accident, and had recognised she had a drug and alcohol disorder.

Moffat had told the court she accepted full responsibility for her actions.

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