17 September 2023

'I am truly sorry': Former truck driver imprisoned for fatal crash

| Claire Fenwicke
Jake Barrett

Jake Barrett received four years’ prison, to be suspended after 20 months, for causing a fatal Barton Highway crash. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

A tow-truck driver, who caused a three-vehicle crash that killed one man and left another with permanent injuries, has been sentenced to prison.

Jake Barrett had been towing a 10-tonne excavator when he drove through the red lights at an intersection of the Barton Highway in September 2021.

The Karabar man’s truck smashed into the side of Alistair Urquhart’s Ford Falcon before the momentum forced both vehicles into Scott Wood’s Toyota LandCruiser.

Mr Urquhart was killed as a result of the collision, while Mr Wood was severely injured.

The issue of “momentary inattention” was a key factor when Supreme Court Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson was considering her sentence, as it had been agreed Barrett had taken his eyes off the road for about eight to 11 seconds after an alarm had sounded in his truck.

This was enough time for him to miss the traffic lights changing from green to yellow to red, and it was found there was “no to minimal braking” before the crash.

READ ALSO Investigation launched after mentally impaired killer dies at health facility

Handing down her sentence on Friday (15 September) – two years to the day since the collision occurred – Her Honour considered the conflicting issues between the seriousness of the charges and the fact that Barrett was of good character and had no previous criminal history.

“Sending people to jail in these circumstances is an invidious experience for the court,” Justice Loukas-Karlsson said.

In both victim impact statements, from Mr Wood and Mr Urquhart’s older sister, it was noted that Barrett hadn’t intentionally set out to “kill or injure people”.

Barrett had also expressed his remorse both in letters to the court and the victims, and in person to Mr Urquhart’s sister at a previous hearing.

The now 29-year-old had been assessed to be eligible for an intensive corrections order (ICO) with additional community service conditions due to his lack of criminal history, previous good character and remorse.

READ ALSO Parents charged after four-year-old child taken to hospital with skull fracture, bruises

Justice Loukas-Karlsson said the “propensity of young men” to commit these types of driving offences “demands” appropriate punishment and deterrence.

She also didn’t agree with the defence argument that this was a case of “momentary inattention”, nor did she fully accept it entered the realm of “total abandonment” of responsibility.

“The tragedy of what has happened and the difficulty of this sentencing exercise must be acknowledged,” Justice Loukas-Karlsson said.

“One thing I cannot do, and I wish the courts could do, is bring back … Mr Urquhart and return your life, Mr Wood, to how it was before.”

She said truck drivers had a particular responsibility to ensure other drivers were safe from their heavier vehicles when on the road, and that eight to 11 seconds was a “significant time period to not be paying attention to the road”.

Ultimately, Her Honour didn’t agree an ICO would be appropriate, given there had been a “death and grievous bodily harm with permanent consequences” as a result of Barrett’s actions, and so such an order would be “excessive leniency”.

She sentenced Barrett to four years’ imprisonment, to be suspended after 20 months.

Then he would enter into a good behaviour order for three years from May 2025.

Justice Loukas-Karlsson told Barrett she had given a “great deal of anxious consideration” to imposing an ICO.

“You are clearly suffering, your wife is suffering, your children are suffering, but I cannot allow [for that sentence],” she said.

“An innocent person waiting at the lights has died and another innocent person has had his life permanently changed.

“You must serve your debt to the community, Mr Barrett.”

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.