Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Serial drink driver jailed for manslaughter

A serial drink driver, drunk and high on drugs when he killed an innocent motorist, has been sentenced to at least six years jail in Tasmania.

Supreme Court Justice Shan Tennent, in handing out one of the state's harshest-ever sentences for vehicular manslaughter on Wednesday, said 37-year-old Jason Harris's driving record was appalling.

His crime was one of the worst of its kind, Justice Tennent said.

"You were an accident waiting to happen and could easily have killed or injured several other road users," she told Harris.

The unemployed Launceston man earlier this month pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Dawn Lodge, 49, in a head-on collision in Fingal, on the state's east coast, on January 12.

Harris had continued to drive despite having had his licence disqualified five times, four times for drink driving.

He had been convicted of driving whilst disqualified five times and was given a three-month suspended jail sentence for drink driving a month before killing Mrs Lodge.

She was killed instantly on an urban road when Harris veered into the path of her car at 135km/h after smoking cannabis and drinking enough to return a blood alcohol level of 0.109, the court was told.

Her 18-year-old son James, a passenger in his mother's car, escaped any serious physical injury.

Harris survived the collision, suffering serious injuries and some brain damage.

The court was told he can't remember the event.

"I have no doubt both Mr Lodge and his son will suffer the effects of this accident for the rest of their lives and that nothing this court may do will change that," Justice Tennent said.

She said Harris drove in a dangerous manner on highways for about 90 minutes, putting a number of other drivers at risk, before killing Mrs Lodge.

"The consequences of your actions have been the worst imaginable," Justice Tennent said.

"This case can only be described as a very bad example of a crime of this nature and a significant sentence is required."

Justice Tennent convicted Harris and sentenced him to serve at least six years of a seven year jail term.

She disqualified Harris from driving for 15 years, until he reaches the age of 52.

He has to pay a victim of crime compensation levy of $50.

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