LYNNLEY DOYLE: Died in a car crash last May.
LYNNLEY DOYLE: Died in a car crash last May.

She's suffered enough

KATIE LEE BROOKER can't remember the car crash that killed her friend Lynnley Doyle at Alstonville in May last year.

She can't remember driving the car Lynnley died in or taking the ecstasy pill that may have contributed to the crash ? or anything from the 18 months before the crash.

But she remembers Lynnley, and yesterday Brooker wept as Lismore District Court Judge JW Black QC decided whether to send her to prison after she pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing Lynnley's death while under the influence of the party drug ecstasy.

Cries of anguish and then joy broke from a crowd of about 20 of Brooker's family and friends as Judge Black sentenced Brooker, 21, of Alstonville, to two years' jail and then wholly suspended the sentence.

The court had just heard heard Brooker suffered a serious brain injury in the crash and had lost all memory of the 18 months before the accident.

In expert testimony, Brooker's rehabilitation worker, Karen Thomson, said Brooker spent about three months in the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane after the crash, initially in a coma.

For about two months after she woke up, Brooker suffered from a condition known as post traumatic amnesia; unable to remember anything for more than a few minutes.

"Katie would have known people familiar to her, but if they left the room for two minutes and came back it would be like she was seeing them for the first time that day," Ms Thomson said. She said Brooker now had short-term memory and cognitive problems.

Brooker needed a safe and controlled environment and had to write down anything she needed to remember. The injury made it difficult for her to interact socially and work.

"She will have these cognitive problems for the rest of her life," she said.

Ms Thomson said that despite her injury, Brooker 'courageously' volunteered to deliver a talk to students at Casino High School on the dangers of using drugs and driving.

"It was incredibly powerful. She said if she could convince even one person to think about what they were doing it would be worth it," she said.

Defence barrister Chris Bruce said Brooker had suffered heavily.

He said her brain injury would make a jail term more difficult for her than it would the average person and pointed to witness statements suggesting Brooker did not seem intoxicated shortly before the crash.

Crown prosecutor Don Sanderson backed the call for a suspended sentence.

In handing down the sentence, Judge Black noted that Brooker's life had been 'irretrievably damaged' by the crash.

He acknowledged the loss experienced by members of Lynnley Doyle's family, saying: "Her family will never recover that member and will always have memories of her ? and not only her family, but her many friends will also suffer from that loss."

However, he said Brooker's family and friends had also suffered and Brooker had shown genuine remorse.

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