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Guilty plea over fatal car crash

By astrosapien - 13 August 2009 37

I figured that I would add the following after the general consensus at the time of the crash was that we would wait to see what the verdict was and resume the discussions from there (original post).

In case you don’t recall, I am one of the brothers of the mother in the other car.  My sister, her husband and their two young children were returning home from a night at family’s place for the Olympics opening ceremony when this occurred. Comments regarding the verdict below the report…

**Taken from the Wednesday August 5 Canberra Times**

    A young Canberra woman who was on drugs when she crashed her car, causing the death of her 16-year-old friend, was given a suspended sentence and community service yesterday.

    Ashleigh Jane Williams, 19, pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to negligent driving causing death and negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm over the crash that killed 16-year-old Amy Ryan in Conder last year.

    The court heard that Williams was behind the wheel of a car that crossed on to the wrong side of Tharwa Drive early on the morning of August 9 last year, hitting another car that contained a mother and her two young children.

    Ms Ryan suffered a head injury and died almost instantly, while the woman driving the other car sustained a broken leg in the crash and 14-month-old son was left with a broken collarbone.

    Williams, who was also hurt, was found to have MDMA (ecstasy) and another drug, MDA, in her blood.

    The teenager wept as Chief Magistrate Ron Cahill handed down a sentence of 15 months in prison to run concurrently and wholly suspended, a two-year good-behaviour bond, 12 months of probation, 240 hours of community service and she was banned from driving for 18 months.

At the time of the crash there had been talk of drugs being involved.  To have it confirmed doesn’t make things any “better” or “easier”.  If anything it makes the situation worse.  It’s disappointing to think that there are people out there who have such a low regard for the safety of themselves or the people around them that they would do something so stupid as to drive while under the influence.   I think that most people have an idea of the effects of ecstasy on people who take it, although I was interested to learn that the other drug in Ashleigh’s system, MDA, is known for having “psychedelic-like effects, such as visual hallucinations”.

Given my relationship to the victims of this incident, I obviously feel a little let down in what I consider to be light sentencing.  However, having said that, I also know that just locking someone up for extended periods of time isn’t necessarily the answer either.  What I would really like to see, and hope that it isn’t too late to implement, is for Ashleigh to go from school to school and recount first hand to the teens at these schools the event and the dangers of taking drugs and driving.  I think that students who are entering their mid-to-late teens would benefit more from seeing the emotion of someone who was responsible for killing their friend than they would from just going to a police car lot and seeing a mangled wreck.  And I certainly wouldn’t put a ridiculous hour or year limit.  Each year there are going to be more young people thinking that they can do what they want and that it is all going to be ok…  Ashleigh has the chance to do something positive here and serve as a constant reminder that we all have to be accountable for our actions.

Anyways, I put it to you, RiotACTers…  What say you…?

What’s Your opinion?


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37 Responses to
Guilty plea over fatal car crash
astrosapien 10:32 am 14 Aug 09

Woody Mann-Caruso
This was a detail that we had heard from the police on the scene from the very get go. We had heard from them that drugs had been found in the car, but they were still waiting on the actual blood tests etc to confirm whether the driver had it in her system or not. And even once the drugs had been confirmed, my sister didn’t even get confirmation of this until the hearing etc, because the results tied directly in with the charges that were eventually laid on the driver. So we had the inkling there, but my family didn’t get confirmation until the article was published in the paper last week.

pptvb
Thanks, they are fine now… My sister still has a metal rod in her leg from where the bone was broken, and my nephew has recovered nicely from his broken collarbone, although there are the other less physical things that can sometimes take longer to completely recover from.

ahappychappy
I understand that it would be hard for her, and that is the whole point… Now, I admit that my position on this is somewhat biased considering my family was in this crash, but the driver got off pretty lightly… She, through her stupid and senseless actions, killed a friend and could quite as simply have killed a young family… If you ask me, getting up in front of people and telling them the dangers of stupid behaviour is the LEAST that she could do… And if she wants to complain about how hard it is, then she can look at the family of the girl that she killed. As far as I care, she can just suck it up and try and do something positive…

Granny 10:07 am 14 Aug 09

It may not seem like it, but she does have a life sentence. She will never get over this. I am very grateful that your sister and her young children were not killed or maimed for life. I think that both Ashleigh and other young people could benefit from her sharing her experience, but I think that should come from her and not be imposed to be truly useful.

Woody Mann-Caruso 9:41 am 14 Aug 09

Looking at the old thread, it seems VYBerlinaV8 can tell the future! Maybe he could post Lotto numbers as a weekly feature.

ahappychappy 9:36 am 14 Aug 09

weeziepops said :

Re: #4, yes it would take courage but the guilty party is lucky, in my view, to get off this lightly and the consequences of actions such as theirs SHOULD carry with them a degree of challenge and sacrifice.

I agree wholeheartedly. But throwing someone who would obviously be under immense emotional stress into the deep end like that could be devastating. I agree, she made a horrible decision that cost someone their life… and was lucky to not have done more damage. That all comes back onto herself and she should (and will) have to deal with all the emotions and social repercussions.

However, it is a very hard thing to do personally when you confront as issue like this. I think it would be a good way to get the message across, however probably wouldn’t be plausible to do so.

pptvb 8:19 am 14 Aug 09

I hope your sister & nephew have recovered.

crankymum 8:03 am 14 Aug 09

I would only approve of this, if Ms Williams was supported by appropriate psychological counselling.

I feel that without the guidance of a professionally qualified psychologist, she would be harmed further, by continually recounting the circumstances.

I worry that not only would she be further psychologically scarred, but she would not be bringing a completely beneficial message to her peers.

She would not be able to bring the insights into her own motivations – whether it was a need for excitement, or a need for attention, or a self-destructive impulse – that lead to her choosing such risky behaviour.

Without learning to know herself, and understand the pressures that lead to such a terrible event, the educational value for other youngsters would be questionable.

Without learning how to identify her own problematic behaviours, she won’t be able to change them.

If she learnt how to choose more wisely, she could articulate a more positive arguement for alternative methods for young people to resolve their ‘issues’…

…at least that is what I am thinking at the moment.

weeziepops 7:39 am 14 Aug 09

Re: #4, yes it would take courage but the guilty party is lucky, in my view, to get off this lightly and the consequences of actions such as theirs SHOULD carry with them a degree of challenge and sacrifice.

Sgt.Bungers 1:49 am 14 Aug 09

“…pleaded guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to *negligent driving causing death*…” No such charge should exist on our books. Kill someone on the road whilst intoxicated or impaired by any substance, or indeed as a direct result of breaking any other law, and it should be a manslaughter charge, nothing less. 10 years minimum per person who’s been maimed or killed as a direct result of another persons stupid and reckless actions.

Watch our road toll plummet as everyone straightens up and gets their priorities straight on the road.

backlash 1:27 am 14 Aug 09

Young and inexperienced driver, also a lesson DON’T get into a car with someone who is drunk or on drugs, I know the girl was young, they both knew right from wrong.

bd84 10:05 pm 13 Aug 09

Sounds like the perfect community service for a person who seems to have been a normally decent person whose idiotic decision to drive cost someone their life and most likely scarred a lot of others. The visits to schools would be educational for students with some decent chance of getting through to them when a person at a similar age gets up and says “I took drugs and I decided to drive and ended up killing one of my best friends”. It doesn’t allow the girl to get away scot-free either.

kellogg 8:55 pm 13 Aug 09

This is a great and constructive idea. Why don’t you contact the superintendent of traffic at ACT Policing and make this suggestion. He might have some influence with the judicial authorities who determine what community service will be performed. Obviously something as confronting as facing peers to explain your drugged stupidity may not be considered appropriate “community service” by some. But it’s worth a try. Especially when it comes from a family member of a victim.

ahappychappy 8:43 pm 13 Aug 09

As much as that does sound like quite a good thing to do. That would take a LOT of courage to do it. Especially with the friends of Miss Ryan around the age the campaign would be targeted. Though a good idea. I don’t know whether it will be possible/plausible.

GardeningGirl 8:38 pm 13 Aug 09

” What I would really like to see, and hope that it isn’t too late to implement, is for Ashleigh to go from school to school and recount first hand to the teens at these schools the event and the dangers of taking drugs and driving. I think that students who are entering their mid-to-late teens would benefit more from seeing the emotion of someone who was responsible for killing their friend than they would from just going to a police car lot and seeing a mangled wreck. And I certainly wouldn’t put a ridiculous hour or year limit. Each year there are going to be more young people thinking that they can do what they want and that it is all going to be ok… Ashleigh has the chance to do something positive here and serve as a constant reminder that we all have to be accountable for our actions. “

Yes!

Addison 7:49 pm 13 Aug 09

another true story for those who think drugs are harmless.

Punter 7:18 pm 13 Aug 09

I think it would be a good indication of her remorse if she did undertake such a task.

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