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Thursday, 7 September, 2017

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Joshua’s a cat in a hat Joshua was one of a myriad of Cats in the Hat during a recent Dr Seuss dress-up day at Narre Warren North Primary School. To see more of the students and staff in zany costume, turn to page 4. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

Jailed after crash An unlicensed and drug-affected driver who ploughed head-on into a car containing a family of five in Narre Warren North has been jailed. Emma Louise Phelps, 36, had told police she had been winding up a window as her car veered over doublewhite lines on a corner of BelgraveHallam Road on 4 April 2016. The other driver steered left to try to avoid a collision as Phelps overcorrected her car. She struck the family’s car on the driver’s side and caused it to roll over onto its roof. Phelps pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering persons and unlicensed driving at the County Court of Victoria.

The man driving the struck car was hospitalised with serious injuries including a closed head injury, multiple pelvic fractures and a torn shoulder. He endured four days in The Alfred trauma unit and eight months of intensive clinical rehab. His wife and three children were also injured, including a six-year-old transported to the Royal Children’s Hospital without her parents, Judge Susan Cohen noted during sentencing on 4 September. “I’m satisfied that the impact - both emotional and physical - to the ... family was very considerable. “Objectively, it could have been even more so, as a collision causing the vehicle to overturn could have caused even more serious consequences to any of the five occupants.”

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A passenger in Phelps’ car who fled from the scene has not been identified, the court heard. Phelps had been smoking cannabis a few hours before the crash, she told police. There was no evidence that she’d received a driver’s licence, nor ever been taught to drive. “Whether lack of competence or experience as a driver of a car contributed to this collision is unclear,” Judge Cohen said. “But what is clear is that what driving skills you had were impaired by THC from the cannabis you had that day.” Phelps, as a cannabis user for “many, many years” would have been well aware that the drug would have dulled her driving reactions, the judge said.

She had been previously convicted of unlicensed driving in 2004, and more recently, several dishonesty offences. Phelps told police she’d driven her vehicle unlicensed at least 20 times. In mitigation, there was no evidence of excessive speed, wilfully reckless driving or “showing off”. A remorseful Phelps was upset, acknowledged her actions at the crash scene and was co-operative with police, Judge Cohen noted. Phelps’s moral culpability was also slightly reduced by her 21-year drug habit, which wasn’t a “wholly voluntary choice”. It began as part of a traumatic childhood, running away from home at 14 and enduring “more than one” abusive relationship.

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However, Phelps had failed to engage with treatment and re-offended during a community corrections order in 2011. She required detoxification and long-term programs to prevent relapse from her “deep-rooted” addiction, which began as part of a traumatic childhood. Her rehab was in her interest, and the interests of the general community as well, Judge Cohen said. “It won’t be easy for you, but it’s in your hands to establish a stable lifestyle for your future.” Phelps was jailed for eight months, followed by an 18-month supervised community corrections order with drug and mental health treatment. She was disqualified from driving for two years.

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News - Berwick - 07th September 2017  
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