Young driver jailed for killing Warrnambool mother of four

A YOUNG driver who hit and killed a Warrnambool mother has been jailed for four years and three months.

Eamonn Leddin, 21, of Warrnambool, was yesterday sentenced in the Warrnambool County Court after he pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing death.

Family and friends broke down as Leddin was taken into custody. He will have to serve two years and three months before being eligible for parole.

Mother-of-four Janet Baldam, 47, was cycling on the Hopkins Point Road when she was struck from behind by a red Mazda coupe driven by Leddin.

“The justified grief of family members is haunting and I can find no words of comfort.”

Judge Mark Taft said he understood members of the community would have differing views about the appropriate sentence imposed on Leddin.

“A loss of life can never be replaced and no punishment can compensate for that loss,” he said.

“On the other hand I accept that you are a young man of otherwise good character who is particularly vulnerable in the prison system.

“I have anxiously considered the length of your sentence.

“Regrettably, it is a sad truism that there are no winners in cases such as this.”

Judge Taft said he had read the victim impact statements tendered by Mrs Baldam’s husband and four children,  which included photos of Mrs Baldam, together with her immediate family.

“It is often said that a picture tells a thousand words,” he said.

“She was clearly a vibrant woman whose life was clearly cut short. The photographs attest to her warmth and connection to her family.”

Judge Taft said the victim impact statements were immeasurably sad and spoke of their grief and anger.

“No apology that you can make can restore the life of an excellent wife and mother who looked forward to having grandchildren,” he said.

“Janet Baldam had a plan to live to 100 and she was fit and trim and took her health seriously. She cycled to that end.

“The justified grief of family members is haunting and I can find no words of comfort.”

After the accident both Leddin and his passenger Jessica Cherrett checked and could not find a pulse and each took turns at CPR before the ambulance arrived.

Judge Taft said as a result of Leddin’s grossly negligent driving one life had been lost, many others irreparably changed and Mrs Baldam’s death would haunt Leddin forever.

The court heard when Leddin hit Mrs Baldam he was not affected by alcohol or drugs, was not distracted by a mobile phone and was not speeding or driving in an erratic or dangerous manner.

When Leddin spoke to police after the accident he stated he lost his train of thought and wasn’t concentrating on the road. When asked if he was tired or fatigued Leddin said he was wide awake. Judge Taft said Leddin was now 21 and it was the first occasion he’d appeared before the court on criminal charges.

He pointed to the strong character references given on behalf of Leddin. The court heard he had contributed to the community in a variety of ways, including volunteering, coaching and refereeing junior volleyball.

Judge Taft said he had concerns that Leddin would be vulnerable in custody and did not present as worldly.

He said it had been more than two years and eight months since Mrs Baldam died and the delay in the proceedings had been unacceptable.

But for his plea of guilty Leddin would have been jailed for five-and-a-half years with a non-parole period of three years and six months.

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