TWO young Leongatha hoons, one driving a blue Holden Commodore ute and the other a black Ford XR6 ute, allegedly reached speeds of 200km/h during an organised drag race down Andersons Road, Leongatha in April this year.
The Wonthaggi Magistrates’ Court heard last Friday that the two drivers, a 23-year-old woman and her co-accused, allegedly a 19-year-old male p-plate driver, were lucky to be alive after making two passes down the infamous dragstrip at fearful speeds on Wednesday, April 3.
Towards the end of the second race, the driver of the Commodore, Annabelle Hobbs, 23, an apprentice motor mechanic of Leongatha, with a female passenger onboard, lost control of her car, at high speed on a sweeping bend, spun out of control through a barbed wire fence, and wrote the car off after crashing backwards into a tree.
She tested positive for both alcohol and drugs (cannabis) at the scene but was ultimately charged only with exceeding the prescribed concentration of drugs (exceed PCD).
Miraculously the pair managed to get themselves out of the wreck, Hobbs with relatively minor injuries and her passenger sustaining a broken nose and bruising to her arm, being transferred to the Dandenong hospital.
The driver of the other car, who remained at the scene, is set to appear in the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, August 1.
Specialist police from the Collision Reconstruction and Mechanical Investigation Unit used photographs and other evidence gathered at the scene to conclude the two cars were travelling at a minimum of 170km/h.
But in an interview with Inverloch police in May, Hobbs admitted to racing at speeds of “up to 200km/h”.
It was enough for both the Magistrate Rodney Higgins and Police Prosecutor, Senior Constable Ange Wilken-Eilers, to reject defence counsel Meaghan Crouch’s plea for a monetary penalty.
“A fine? I’m considering jailing her,” Magistrate Higgins said.
The prosecutor petitioned the court for a much harsher penalty.
“A fine is not appropriate. The charge of reckless conduct endangering serious injury carries with it a penalty of up to five years in prison,” S/C Wilken-Eilers said.
“The passenger [name] sustained a broken nose and bruising to her arm requiring two nights in hospital and her arm in a sling for some time.
“Thankfully, neither the driver nor the passenger was killed, or it would have been heard in a higher jurisdiction.
“For specific and general deterrence purposes, the court needs to send a clear message to the community.
“Doing things like this and disregarding public safety needs to be acknowledged and I submit that a Community Corrections Order, a road trauma awareness course and other programs to discourage reoffending are needed.”
Magistrate Higgins agreed.
“Your lawyer has asked for a fine today but that’s nowhere near penalty enough. It would have been jail for these speeds and racing, jail for 12 months but for your remorse, your early guilty plea, your age, your willingness to assist police, your efforts in obtaining a new job, seeking treatment and taking steps to pay for the damage to the fence,” Mr Higgins said.
“I hope this has scared the living daylights out of you. You were that close to eight years jail for culpable driving.
“What if a kangaroo or something else had come out?
“You are young and stupid, stupid as many young people are and a message has to be sent to other young and stupid people that the courts and the community will not tolerate this situation.
“I will get you assessed for a Community Corrections Order. You are going to lose your licence for a long time and you will be on a CCO for a long time, but I am not going to jail you today,” he said.
Mr Higgins later disqualified Hobbs’ licence for 18 months, placed her on a CCO for 18 months with 50 hours of community work which he said could be used to seek assessment and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, and to attend offending behaviour and driver awareness programs.
“Ms Hobbs you are lucky not to be going to jail today but even luckier on that night that you didn’t kill yourself and those people here in court with you would have been at your funeral today and not in court,” he said in conclusion.
Mr Higgins also ordered that photographs from the scene could be released to the local media to raise public awareness.