19 July 2022

Meth driver that killed Sue Salthouse sentenced to jail for third drug driving offence

| Albert McKnight
Man leaving court

Mitchell Ryan Laidlaw, 35, leaves court earlier this year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

The speeding driver who caused the death of Sue Salthouse has been sentenced for several driving charges, including his third drug driving offence, which were all committed after he killed the beloved disability advocate.

Last week, 35-year-old Mitchell Ryan Laidlaw had been scheduled to be sentenced for killing Ms Salthouse as well as for having methamphetamine in his system while driving, but instead the Supreme Court heard he had been arrested for the fresh offending.

He copped a verbal battering over his recent behaviour, with Chief Justice Lucy McCallum saying she was “staggered” that he was able to listen to the heart-breaking victim impact statements from Ms Salthouse’s family and then used methamphetamine and drove again.

She adjourned so he could be assessed for a Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order but revoked his bail.

Laidlaw then appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday (18 July), having spent 10 days in custody since he was arrested over the recent offences.

He pleaded guilty to charges of drug driving as a repeat offender, two counts of driving while suspended, using an unregistered vehicle and using an illegal number plate.

He had been on bail for the Supreme Court charges where police spotted him driving on 23 June 2022 and pulled him over.

They discovered his drivers licence had expired in April and had been suspended. Also, he told police he hadn’t taken drugs recently, but testing found he had methamphetamine in his system.

It is his third drug driving offence, as he also drove with cannabis in his system in 2015.

Then on 9 July, police pulled him over while driving again. His licence was still suspended, the number plates on the car weren’t registered to that car, and the registration was also suspended.

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Barrister Keegan Lee said before the accident that killed Ms Salthouse, his client had been working 100-hour weeks, including for government agencies in security, which caused him stress and led to him using meth.

After the accident, Mr Lee said Laidlaw lost his job, was unable to get the certificates he needed to work in security, suffered depression and was only able to get odd jobs, which added to his financial strain.

He said Laidlaw then started using meth again, getting it every couple of months.

Sue Salthouse

Sue Salthouse had been named the ACT’s Senior Australian of the Year. Photo: Supplied.

As he is a repeat offender, he faced an automatic five-year loss of his drivers licence, but Magistrate Louise Taylor said significant periods of disqualification could see people enter a cycle of driving when they shouldn’t, then being brought back before court.

She said the Crown had accepted that the meth in his system hadn’t played a role in his crash with Ms Salthouse; instead, it was due to momentary inattention.

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However, she said due to that “catastrophic incident”, he was “well and truly on notice” that if he took meth and drove he could be brought back before the court.

Magistrate Taylor sentenced him to 10 days’ jail on the drug driving charge, which was accounted for by the time he had already spent locked up. She also disqualified him from driving for 15 months, gave him a 12-month good behaviour order and fined him $1035.

She said the penalties should allow for the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Order assessment.

Laidlaw will return to the Supreme Court on 29 July and is still in custody because his bail was revoked over the matters in the higher court.

He had pleaded guilty to charges of culpable driving causing death and driving with a prescribed drug in his oral fluid after Ms Salthouse’s death.

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