HAYLEY Goodall would have celebrated her 21st birthday this week.
Instead the driver responsible for the tragic collision in which Hayley and her nana, Juanita (Nita) Raikes, 81, died, was sentenced in Gisborne District Court.
Whakatane man Shane Carl Gebert, 46, whose name was previously suppressed, was yesterday sentenced to six months home detention and ordered to make $5000 reparation payment for each of the victims. He was disqualified from driving for a year.
He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of careless driving causing death.
A large crowd of the victims’ family and friends watched the proceedings from the public gallery in silence.
Outside the courtroom Claire Goodall — Nita’s daughter and Hayley’s mother — said the sentencing was “horrible for everyone”.
The crash happened north of Te Karaka, near Gisborne, just after 5pm on April 20.
Gebert had been driving his ute northwards on a straight downhill sloping section of Matawai Road, State Highway 2, when his vehicle crossed the centre-line and collided with an oncoming southbound car in which the two occupants were travelling.
Their car burst into flames soon after impact.
Judge Arthur Tompkins said the aggravating factor in the case had been the trace presence in Gebert’s body of residual amounts of cannabis. A toxicology report, however, supported the view that presence was not causative of the crash.
Gebert was otherwise unable to account for his careless driving but given it occurred at the end of a day’s work, it was most likely due to his tiredness or momentary inattention, the judge said.
Another report that recommended the sentence of home detention was accepted by counsel and unchallenged by the prosecution, Judge Tompkins said.
It was a realistic penalty given the low level of Gebert’s criminality and the absence of any intention to criminally offend.
At the same time, there was the enormity of the consequences to be acknowledged. While a financial payment could not begin to compensate for the on-going trauma felt by the victims’ families, it was still appropriate, the judge said.
Gebert was essentially a first-time offender who had otherwise made a significant positive contribution to his community. The further tragedy was the significant and wide-ranging contributions that the victims had also made to the community and which had been so suddenly cut short.
The court had received a number of articulate and eloquent Victim Impact statements, which detailed the extremely traumatic and ongoing consequences of the two women’s untimely deaths, the judge said.
Gisborne barrister Doug Rishworth appeared on behalf of Gebert, whose out-of-town counsel Murray McKechnie had been stranded at an airport.
Mr McKechnie had not wanted to postpone the proceedings. He knew it was important to all involved that sentencing went ahead yesterday.
Mr Rishworth said like others of its kind, the case was tragic and particularly difficult when it came to sentencing. Nothing he or Gebert could say or any penalty the court could impose would alleviate the grief of the family of the deceased.
All Gebert could do was plead guilty at an early opportunity, which he had done, and express his remorse, which was genuine – as set out in a probation report.
Gebert had to be sentenced for his culpability rather than the enormous consequences of the accident, although clearly those were an aggravating factor, Mr Rishworth said.
He asked the judge to take into account Gebert’s guilty pleas, remorse and lack of previous convictions.
In terms of reparation, Mr Rishworth said Gebert knew it was proper and appropriate to make such a payment but was reluctant to suggest a figure himself as to do so would be trite.
Gebert had read the Victim Impact statements, Mr Rishworth said.
Police prosecutor Claire Stewart described the statements as “quite harrowing”. No sentence could be imposed to alleviate the family’s pain and suffering. She had no issue with the submissions made on Gebert’s behalf.