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Crash driver back in court

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

As he stood in court almost a year ago, a Featherston teenager heard how he would have to live with the “heart-breaking” effects of his actions which led to the deaths of two young friends in a high-speed crash.

This week, the now 16-year-old was back in the dock, but in much happier circumstances.

Respectful, mature, helpful – these were some of the terms used to describe the teen, who cannot be named, and whose progress has been described as steady since fleeing police in a stolen car on January 31, 2016.

The vehicle reached speeds of up to 120kmh that night before ploughing into a lamppost on Queen St, leaving two 15-year-old boys dead, and a third injured.

The incident sent shockwaves through the Featherston community, and the wider Wairarapa.

Now a court has heard that the teen, who was 14 at the time of the crash, is not only taking responsibility for what he has done, but wants to warn other young people about the dangers of bad driving.

He appeared in a closed session of the Masterton Youth Court on Thursday, seeking a variance of a supervision order made necessary after an altercation at a training centre brought his safety into question.

Judge Mary O’Dwyer, the original sentencing judge, granted the variation with conditions that will be in force for the remaining seven months of the supervision period.

In evidence, both written and verbal, the judge was told of the determined efforts of the driver to get his life back on track.

He had completed a sentence of residential supervision, actually being given early release, and was part way through a follow-up 12-month supervision when a dispute at a training centre intervened.

Judge O’Dwyer heard that the course had been going well for the young man up to that point.

He had an exemplary attendance record, was well organised, respectful of others and was showing a positive maturity until the incident brought his future safety into focus.

The interruption that brought his time on the course to a halt meant a revised plan had to be drawn up, and that lead to his appearance in the youth court this week.

Both social worker Kate Bolton, who works for the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, and narrative therapist Ross McCracken, had backed efforts the young man had made to improve his life while taking responsibility for what he had done.

Judge O’Dwyer said the young man had spoken of his willingness to take on a project telling other young drivers about the lasting impact the death crash had on his life – and of the risks involved in bad driving.

He was doing level 1 NCEA by correspondence, “which is the hardest way to do it”, and had clocked up 58 credits so far in his quest for 80 which would take him to level 2.

The young man had embarked on a project which involved helping out on a crayfishing boat up north, with the owner of the vessel describing him as “a pleasure to have around”, and who was willing to help out, even with family chores.

Appearing for the young driver in court, solicitor Jock Blathwayt said that success could lead to the 16-year-old gaining full time employment in the fishing industry.

Judge O’Dwyer told the young man it was now up to him to make the best of his opportunity.

She granted the variance order with conditions which included being under the supervision of his parents, complying with house rules, not taking any alcohol or drugs, and that he attends any counselling or therapeutic programmes as directed by his social worker.

In July, 2016, the teen was sentenced to six months’ supervision at a CYF residence on two charges of dangerous driving causing death and one of dangerous driving causing injury, failing to stop for police, driving while forbidden, and unlawfully getting into a motor vehicle.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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