Mum of fatal crash victim says family is 'crushed'
THE tragic fallout of a horrifying car crash which killed two young people from the Woodenbong community has been aired at the sentencing hearing of the 22-year-old driver, Ben Vincent Knight.
Knight has pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death in relation to the crash which occurred about 9pm last September 22.
He was driving his unregistered Nissan 300ZX with no seats or seatbelts along the Mt Lindesay Highway with four passengers when he swerved to avoid a possum and hit an embankment at high speed just 500m from his home.
All five occupants were thrown from the coupe, with 22-year-old Adam Morrison and a 17-year-old sustaining critical injuries and later dying in hospital.
A victim impact statement read by a police officer on behalf of one of the victim's mother said the accident had "crushed our family but we remain strong together".
Knight was also critically injured, and has been left with a brain injury.
At the hearing Knight's mother Anne Smith gave evidence that her son was "not the same as he was before the accident", experiencing memory lapses such as leaving food on the stove and forgetting about it. He also needed ongoing rehabilitation on his shoulder and hips.
The court heard that Knight grew up in an environment marked by domestic violence from his father, a paranoid schizophrenic who targeted his mother and the elder children in the family.
His father died when he was 10, and the family had little money.
Woodenbong farmer Paul Johnson told the court that Knight had worked on his farm since he left school and was a "very capable" and a "good worker" for whom "nothing was a problem" despite his challenging background.
He "was the kind of bloke who could turn his hand to anything and have a go at anything", Mr Johnson said.
He said he had "never heard anyone to say a bad word about Ben".
He said on one occasion when he asked him how he was faring emotionally after the event.
"He looked at me with tears in his eyes... (and said) 'how do you think I would feel if you had done what I've just done."
During the hearing Knight's solicitor High van Dugteren argued passionately for the court considering an extra-lenient sentence, which might include the possibility of community service with a suspended jail sentence.
The Crown has argued the dangerous driving was aggravated because of the state of the vehicle.
But Mr van Dugteren argued Knight's moral culpability was "very low" because he was not speeding, driving erratically, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the crash took place.
He also argued Knight's background of "abject poverty" and an "incredibly violent father" should be taken into account.
Knight had also shown an "incredibly capacity" to support the family of the deceased.
"Despite his background he's done amazingly well."
"I'd argue that this man fully appreciates what he has done."
Crown prosecutor Ben Cochrane argued that the court had a jurisdiction to uphold public safety which is why general deterrence in sentencing was so important.
Judge Dina Yehia will complete Knight's sentencing next Tuesday, November 7, in Lismore District Court.