Brenton Donald Poole in Masterton District Court on Wednesday. PHOTO/TIMES-AGE
‘You should have stopped and slept,’ Judge tells driver
Difficult sentencing: Convicted driver ‘remorseful’
Fatigued drivers on the road are a danger to others, was the warning given when the driver involved in a fatal collision at Tauherenikau last January appeared for sentencing on Wednesday afternoon.
Brenton Donald Poole, a Hamilton-based commercial truck driver, appeared in Masterton District Court having earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of careless driving causing death and one charge of breaching
commercial driving regulations which require a break every 5½ hours.
The 28-year-old had only slept for four hours before departing Hamilton at 5.30am on January 29.
He was making his way from a drop-off in Lower Hutt to another job in Mauriceville when the signs of fatigue started to show.
As he approached the 70kmh speed zone outside of Featherston, Poole slowed to between 20-30kmh before crossing the centre line.
“That was the point you had received a biological notice that all was not well,” Judge Barbara Morris said.
“You should have stopped and slept.
“You should not have driven on.”
Just 10 minutes later, Poole again crossed the centre line on the Tauherenikau bridge outside of Featherston.
A white van travelling south narrowly avoided a head-on collision with him by crossing over into the northbound lane.
Another vehicle attempted to do so but collided with the truck when Poole corrected and moved back into the left lane.
Craig Shields, 53, of Carterton, who had been on the passenger side, was cut out of the vehicle and flown to Wellington Hospital by Life Flight in a critical condition where he died just over a week later.
His wife Nicky Shields had been driving and was in court on Wednesday with several other family members.
Judge Morris said that the couple had just “six months before built their dream home”.
“They had one Christmas in it together,” she said.
She said both parties had been brave to engage in restorative justice and that the Shields family, had shown great compassion.
Crown prosecutor Sally Carter said it was a difficult sentencing which could not compare with the “devastating impact” of losing a family member.
She listed Poole’s perseverance despite several warning signs, his commercial experience, and the heavy classification of the truck as aggravating factors but said a prison sentence would not be appropriate in this instance.
Carter called on the judge to impose a sentence of 300 hours community work and order reparations totalling $59,000.
She said the driving disqualification would need to be balanced with the risk posed to the public from his continued driving as that was his main source of income.
Hastings-based defence lawyer Matthew Phelps agreed it was a difficult sentencing matter for all involved.
He accepted the aggravating factors listed and said that “errors in judgment” had led to “catastrophic consequences”.
Phelps said both parties’ participation in a restorative justice conference had been beneficial and his client had adopted a responsible approach to dealing with the matter.
“He is clearly remorseful.”
Judge Morris agreed the accident had affected Poole significantly and this was factored in her judgement.
“You have to carry the heavy weight of your decisions for the rest of your life. Fatigued drivers on the road are dangerous to others. That goes for all of us.”
She sentenced Poole to 250 hours community work and ordered him to pay reparations of $59,000.
He was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.
The Shields family said in a statement given to the Times-Age that the loss of Craig had a huge impact on them.
“Drivers needed to be more aware of the consequences of fatigued driving.
“Sadly, this could have been different if fatigue was managed.”
Nicky Shields said they were grateful for the remorse and sincere apologies offered by Poole and his family.
“This allows us all to be able to move forward in a positive way,” she said.