Perth: texting driver who killed workmate in Mitchell Freeway crash sent to prison

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A WOMAN who was texting and driving at high speed before she crashed into a ute on a Perth freeway, killing her workmate, has been sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.

Aine Marie McGrath, 25, stood trial last month in the West Australian District Court and was found guilty of aggravated dangerous driving causing the death of Sarah Kelly, 25, in August 2016.

McGrath was driving at more than 100 km/h and texting her boyfriend before she lost control of her car and veered across four lanes of the Mitchell Freeway, near Leederville, crashing into a ute.

Defence counsel John Hawkins said his client was aware of the hardship experienced by the victim’s family.

“Not a day goes by without her thinking about the pain that they must be enduring,” he told the court on Thursday.

“She lost a friend and that is something she will never get over.”

Mr Hawkins said McGrath was hoping to eventually move to Brisbane to start over because living in Perth was too painful.

He urged the judge not to take away McGrath’s liberty, saying she had heartfelt remorse and was “totally cut up”.

But prosecutor Ben Stanwix said McGrath’s regret over her friend’s death was not the same as remorse.

Mr Stanwix said McGrath showed selfish disregard for the safety of others through her inattention and tried to pass blame.

General deterrence was also significant and a strong message needed to be sent to the community that such risk-taking would not be tolerated, he said.

Judge Stephen Scott agreed it was not a moment of inattention, rather a prolonged use of her phone while driving at speed in traffic.

He described McGrath’s offending as in the mid-range of seriousness.

The judge also accepted McGrath was otherwise of good character and highly regarded by others.

McGrath must spend at least 22 months behind bars before she can be eligible for parole.

She has also been banned from driving for three years.

McGrath, who is from Ireland but has lived in Australia for several years, cried when the sentence was handed down.

Her supporters also wept and gasped, with one woman saying: “Oh my God.”