Top QC defends jail term

Tom Percy QC was commenting on criticism of the sentence Judge Anthony Derrick gave Melissa Ann Waters last Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to crashing into a Merriwa house and killing eight-month-old Nate Dunbar in January.

Waters, who ignored friends’ advice not to drive under the influence of alcohol, was jailed for three years and eight months and will be eligible for parole in less than two years.

‘I think theses things are best left to sentencing judges,’ Mr Percy told 6PR radio. ‘And if the sentencing judge gets it wrong, according to the prosecution, then the prosecution will take it to the court of appeal and we’ll get another view of it.’

He defended the sentence, saying the judge would have dealt with it ‘extremely thoroughly’.

‘He would have heard all sides of the argument, compared it to recent cases that have been decided in the court of appeal and elsewhere and arrived at a sentence that fitted both sides of the equation,’ Mr Percy said.

‘On the face of it you think a life is only worth four years. That’s a simplistic way of looking at it.

‘But you need to realise that the head sentence for an offence like that is only 10 years. She got fairly close to that.

‘There were some aggravating features, the alcohol level was pretty bad. But she did plead guilty, she’s a mother of three herself. So the impact of taking an eight-month-old baby’s life through her own negligence wouldn’t be lost on her and I think she is going to have to live with that for the rest of her life.’

– Police and Road Safety Minister Liza Harvey released drink-driving statistics last week, showing almost 9000 driver’s licences had been disqualified on the spot under laws introduced last year.

Under the legislation, a licence is suspended roadside (instead of at a later court date) when drivers have a blood-alcohol reading at or above 0.08.