Young fatal crash driver appeals jail time

A DRIVER who killed a mother-of-four as she was cycling on Warrnambool’s Hopkins Point Road is appealing against the severity of his jail sentence.

Eamonn Leddin, 21, admitted culpable driving in the County Court last month and was jailed for four years and three months. He will have to serve two years and three months before being eligible for parole.

Many in the community were shocked by the harshness of the sentence.

Leddin, of Panmure, killed Janet Baldam, 47, when his car hit her about 11am on April 7, 2011. He had been travelling back to the region after attending a show in Melbourne and had only slept for about five hours, a court hearing last year heard.

Leddin had no prior court appearances and his defence lawyer Xavier Farrelly said he would find a long term in jail difficult.

Mr Farrelly told The Standard the sentence was excessive and said Leddin stood a good chance of a successful appeal and a reduced sentence.

Compared to similar cases of culpable driving, Leddin’s was not influenced by any of the usual five negligent factors of alcohol, drugs, speed, hoon driving or distraction.

Despite this, presiding judge Mark Taft compared Leddin’s case to that of Lynette Satalich, who killed a cyclist and was sentenced to serve exactly the same minimum jail term as Leddin: two years and three months.

Satalich, then 37, of Aspendale, crossed the road and drove into a group of cyclists, killing one and seriously injuring another on January 28, 2001. She had only two hours’ sleep in the previous 24 hours and her sleep deprivation was compared to a 0.1 blood-alcohol reading. She had consumed two alcoholic drinks and an ecstasy pill on the night before the crash.

Another case mentioned during the Leddin hearing was that of Luke Shields, who was 32 in 2008 when he mowed down brothers Sean and Alun Brindle as they cycled along Mentone’s Beach Road. 

He had downed four bottles of wine with his girlfriend and took LSD on Christmas Eve before they jumped in a car to find more drugs.  He was speeding along an ocean-side road in Mentone, at least 90km/h in a 60km/h zone, when his car smashed into the pair. Shields had an alcohol reading of .221, two prior drink-driving convictions and had twice overdosed on drugs just weeks before the accident.

Sean Brindle died in hospital from head injuries three days later and his brother was left with permanent brain and physical injuries.

Shields was originally sentenced to 13 years but on appeal that was reduced to 10 years and he had to serve.

Just last week Warrnam-bool drink-driver Kylie Wythe, 40, received a suspended jail term in the Warrnambool County Court after also pleading guilty to culpable driving.

She received a two-year jail sentence which was suspended for two years. Wythe killed her partner Stephen Haddrick at 12.20am on July 8, 2012, when she ran over him while he was lying down in the driveway of an Aitkins Road home. 

She had an alcohol reading of .138.

Former Warrnambool City councillor John Kenneally has taken a keen interest in the Leddin case.

His son Michael was run down and killed along the Warrnambool-Cobden Road in similar circumstances during 2004.

John Kenneally and another injured rider Barry Warren forgave then 73-year-old Noel Lenehan’s mistake after Lenehan fought the charges during a 2007 trial but was found guilty of culpable driving and negligent driving causing serious injury.

Mr Lenehan received a three-year suspended jail sentence with a $5000 fine.

Mr Kenneally said the impression he got from legal experts was that Lenehan would have been imprisoned for 18 months without the submissions from the Kenneally family and Mr Warren. “There are certainly differences in the cases. Mr Lenehan had no clear vision of the cyclists. He was travelling behind a Bartons pick-up truck, passed the truck and the riders were there,” he said.

Mr Keneally said there was also a lot of public pressure on judges now to imposes harsher sentences.

“There has been a big public outcry about sentencing for the past 12 months, the Jill Meagher case and other high profile cases,” he said.

“Examples have to be made. 

‘‘Mr Leddin did not really have enough rest.’’ 

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