IN THE DISTRICT COURT

CRIMINAL JURISDICTION

ADELAIDE

TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2022 AT 9.02 A.M.

BEFORE HIS HONOUR JUDGE MUSCAT

NO.DCCRM-22-499

R v ARSHDEEP SINGH

HIS HONOUR IN SENTENCING SAID:

Arshdeep Singh, following a collision of the vehicle you were driving way too fast whilst heavily intoxicated, five passengers in your vehicle were injured.  As a result you were charged with, and have pleaded guilty to, four counts of causing serious harm by dangerous driving and one count of causing harm by dangerous driving.

Each count is an aggravated offence because you were driving whilst there was present in your blood a concentration of 0.08 g or more of alcohol and, further, that you were travelling in excess of 45 km/h over the applicable speed limit.

For the counts where serious harm was caused to the victims, this being your first offence of this kind, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for 10 years or such longer period as the court orders.

For the single count, where harm was caused to the victim, this being your first offence of this kind, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for seven years and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for three years, or such longer period as the court orders.

These penalties signify the seriousness of the offences.

You entered your pleas of guilty to the charges at a relatively early stage in the proceedings and when the matter was still in the Magistrates Court, entitling you to a discount on the sentences to be passed of up to 15% for the counts where serious harm was caused and 25% for the count where harm was caused.

In recognition of the early entry of the pleas of guilty, which is demonstrative of your remorse and contrition over your offending behaviour, it is appropriate to reduce the sentences to be imposed by the maximum discounts applicable.  As your counsel submitted, you have accepted full responsibility for your dangerous driving and you have acknowledged the harm and ongoing pain and suffering you have caused the victims.

I will now summarise the circumstances of the offences you have admitted committing.

On the evening of 31 August 2021 Mikaela Parry aged 18 years, Brock Madigan aged 26 years and David Galvin aged 14 years, were at an address in Seaford Meadows socialising with some other friends.  They were drinking and listening to music.  You were also at the address and you had also been drinking.  It is not clear from the evidence how much you were drinking, but a blood sample taken from you after the collision reveals that you must have drunk a considerable amount of alcohol.

At the time, you were employed as a taxi driver.  You leased the taxi from the owner.  On the night, you were not working in your capacity as a taxi driver.  You had driven to the address in the taxi which you were permitted to use for personal purposes.

For context, you had met Brock Madigan two or three weeks prior, through his brother.  David Galvin had not met you before that night.

In the early hours of 1 September 2021, David Galvin telephoned his sister, Shakira Galvin aged 16 years and told her that he was going to pick her up.  She was visiting her aunty in Morphett Vale at the time and was with Jasmaine Phillips also aged 16 years.  Both of those girls had been drinking that night and were affected by alcohol.

You offered to drive David Galvin to collect his sister from her aunty's Morphett Vale house.  Mikaela Parry and Brock Madigan decided to come along for the ride.  Brock Madigan was in the front passenger seat, David Galvin was sitting in the back seat and behind the driver's seat and Mikaela Parry behind the front passenger seat.  As I have said, you must have consumed a fair amount of alcohol and you should never have agreed to drive them anywhere that night.

Along the way to Morphett Vale, you stopped at the On the Run service station where everyone purchased some fast food.

When you arrived at the Morphett Vale address, Shakira Galvin and Jasmaine Phillips got into your vehicle.  David Galvin moved across to sit in the middle of the back seat, Jasmaine Phillips sat behind the driver's seat and Shakira Galvin sat on her lap.

You knew there were too many passengers in the vehicle, and you should never have permitted that to occur.  The risks to the safety of the passengers in the rear seat, particularly Shakira Galvin, should have been obvious to you.

When Jasmaine Phillips got into the vehicle, she described you as being 'drunk and off your head.'

You then drove off and were travelling back to the house at Seaford Meadows.  Jasmaine Phillips said you were driving fast and erratically along the back streets.  You were told to slow down and responded by saying 'It's alright.  I know how to drive'.

Of the passengers who were in the vehicle when you drove off from the Morphett Vale address, only Mikaela Parry and Brock Madigan were wearing seatbelts.

You soon turned onto the Southern Expressway to travel towards Seaford Meadows.  Some of the passengers in your vehicle have described you as travelling at excessive speed along the Southern Expressway, which has a maximum speed limit of 100 km/h.

When you reached the end of the Expressway, the road connects to Main South Road at Old Noarlunga.  There, you turned right to travel south.  The speed limit on Main South Road at that location is 80 km/h.  Mikaela Parry has stated that you 'planted your foot' as soon as you turned onto Main South Road and the vehicle immediately picked up speed.

As you drove down the hill towards the intersection of Main South Road and Seaford Road, the speed limit changes from 80 km/h to 60 km/h.  According to the passengers in your vehicle, you were travelling extremely fast as you drove along Main South Road towards Seaford Road.  You were travelling in the left lane on Main South Road but then moved across into the right lane.

Mikaela Parry believed you were travelling at 200 km/h as you drove over the Onkaparinga River.  She, Brock Madigan and Shakira Galvin were all yelling at you to slow down.  They said you backed off your speed 'a little bit'.

You were intending to turn right into Seaford Road.  Mikaela Parry has stated that you were travelling at about 100 km/h as you started to turn right.  She and Shakira Galvin were both yelling and screaming at you to slow down.  As you commenced the right hand turn into Seaford Road at the traffic lights, you lost control of the vehicle because you were travelling way too fast to safely negotiate the corner.

Mikaela Parry said you braked suddenly, forcing her forward before she was slammed back into the seat.  Her head then struck the passenger side window.  She said she closed her eyes and bent down as she was frightened.  She said the vehicle was starting to lose control and the tyres were screeching before she heard two loud bangs followed by a final bang when the vehicle struck something before coming to a stop.

The vehicle had crashed into a concrete sleeper retaining wall at that intersection outside where the Bunnings store is located.

Mikaela Parry said that after she opened her eyes, she noticed the roof of the vehicle had been pushed down and there was blood over the shattered windscreen.  She undid the seatbelt and open the passenger door and crawled out from the vehicle.  She observed Shakira Galvin getting out of the vehicle and pulling Jasmaine Phillips out.  Mikaela Parry checked on Brock Madigan, who was still seated in the front passenger seat.  David Galvin was in the vehicle with his head and arm hanging out.  He appeared to be unconscious.

Police and emergency services quickly arrived at the scene.

Brock Madigan had to be extracted from the wreck by emergency services.

All of the injured passengers were conveyed to various hospitals for treatment.

While at the scene, you admitted to the police that you were the driver of the vehicle involved in the collision.  You were required to submit to an alcotest. According to the police, you did not blow into the device and then, when you did, you blew in such an insufficient way that the device was not able to record a reading of your breath.  In addition to the charges relating to your dangerous driving, you have been charged with and have pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a police direction to submit or properly submit to an alcotest.  You committed this offence while there was present in your vehicle a child under the age of 16 years, being David Galvin.  This is an offence which, being your first offence of this kind, attracts a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600 and disqualification from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for not less than 12 months or as the court thinks fit.

Mikaela Parry was conveyed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital where she was admitted to the Emergency Ward with tenderness and bruising to the left side of her neck, left lower abdomen and flank regions.  She sustained facial bruising and superficial abrasions.  A CT scan identified a mesenteric haematoma, that being bruising and bleeding into the sheet of fat attached to the bowel.  These injuries are reflected in the first count charged of aggravated causing serious harm by dangerous driving.

Jasmaine Phillips was also conveyed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, having suffered unilateral C5-C7 spine facet fractures, as well as a number of fractures to her ribs.  She also sustained a large haematoma to her scalp.  These injuries are reflected in the second count of aggravated causing harm by dangerous driving.

Shakira Galvin was conveyed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital and admitted to the Spinal Ward, having suffered fractures to her cervical spine, bruising to the lower legs as well as small cuts and abrasions.  She also had deep bruising to her right thigh.  These injuries make up the third count charged of aggravated causing serious harm by dangerous driving.

After the crash, as I have already mentioned, Brock Madigan was trapped in the vehicle and required extraction by emergency services.  He was ultimately conveyed to the Flinders Medical Centre and admitted in the Emergency Department.  He suffered a concussion, pelvic upper and lower pubic rami fractures of both sides, a fracture to the left hip socket, a sternal fracture, a fracture to the nose, a large cut to the face requiring stitches and a laceration to the liver. These injuries are reflected in the fourth count charged of aggravated causing serious harm by dangerous driving.

David Galvin was also conveyed to the Flinders Medical Centre suffering a fracture to the left femur, which required surgery to repair, utilising a plate and screws.  He was then transferred to the Women's and Children's Hospital for further care as he had sustained a bleed on the brain.  These injuries make up the fifth count charged of aggravated causing serious harm by dangerous driving.

Mikaela Parry and her mother have provided victim impact statements to the court.

Mikaela Parry told the court that she thought she was going to die that night. She said that she could not believe that everyone survived the collision.

She has endured terrible nightmares of the collision.  She said that she cannot forget the screaming, the screeching sound of the tyres and the slamming of the vehicle into the wall, nor the smell of fuel after the vehicle stopped.  She has struggled physically and emotionally since and has lost confidence and the will to do things.

Her mother informed the court of the natural fear associated with being informed that your child was in a serious motor vehicle collision and of having to witness her daughter's injuries and hospitalisation.  There was her very real worry that her daughter may require surgery, with the associated complications as advised by the surgeon.  There then followed a long period of supporting her daughter when she was discharged from hospital and watching her daughter's mental health deteriorate.

She added that you attended at the Royal Adelaide Hospital to see how Mikaela was and that you apologised for your behaviour and sought forgiveness.  She said that she was incredibly angry at the time but, after meeting you and speaking with you, she no longer felt that way.  She said that she forgave you then and that still stands today.

While none of the other injured passengers have provided victim impact statements, I have no doubt that they, too, suffered much physical and emotional trauma associated with the collision.

After you failed to comply with the direction to submit to an alcotest, which constitutes the sixth count charged, you were conveyed to the Flinders Medical Centre suffering minor injuries.

At the hospital, a blood sample was taken from you at 4.13 a.m., being just over two hours after the collision.  A subsequent analysis of the sample showed the presence of alcohol at a concentration of 0.107%. In his report, Professor White, a forensic pharmacologist, has estimated at the time of the collision, being 2.06 a.m., your blood alcohol concentration was likely to be around 0.139%.

Professor White reports that at that alcohol level, there would have been significant effects on your ability to drive a motor vehicle in a number of ways, including impacting upon your alertness and reactions, concentration, judgment and decision making.  The likelihood of you engaging in impulsive, risky or reckless behaviour was increased, likely manifested by driving at high speeds.  Also your intoxication impacted your ability to execute important aspects of a vehicle's operation, such as driving in a straight line, braking too soon or too late and so on.  A driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle is also impaired by alcohol as it affects the driver's responses or reactions to situations, such as those that precede a potential collision.

Professor White reported that surveys have clearly established that the risk of a collision is increased 82 fold for drivers with a blood alcohol concentration in the range you had that night.

I have been provided with and viewed the footage, taken by cameras located at the intersection, of you driving across the intersection at speed and losing control before slamming into the concrete sleeper wall.

A senior police investigator has calculated that about five seconds before the collision, your vehicle was travelling at approximately 148 kilometres per hour in a 60 kilometres per hour zone and at the time of turning from Main South Road into Seaford Road, you were travelling at a speed somewhere between approximately 103 kilometres per hour and 108 kilometres per hour.

An examination of the collision scene determined that as you were turning right into Seaford Road, the vehicle lost traction with the road surface and mounted three raised median strips located on the south-western corner of the intersection where the traffic lights are located.  The vehicle continued to travel in a generally westerly direction and collided with the concrete kerbing before crashing into the concrete sleeper retaining wall on the south-western corner of the intersection.  The vehicle then rotated anticlockwise before coming to a rest on the westbound bicycle lane on the southern side of Seaford Road and facing generally south-east.

The speeds and reconstruction of the vehicle determined by the police are consistent with what Mikaela Parry has described in her statement.

Your dangerous driving is objectively very serious. You were drunk and travelling at extremely high speeds.  You had five passengers in the vehicle at the time.  Not only was that illegal but, as a taxi driver, you would have known that.  Given the number of passengers in the vehicle, the risks posed to their safety by your dangerous driving is self-evident.  It is incredible that none of the passengers were not injured more seriously than they were, or worse, killed.

The community is rightly concerned about the dangers posed to the public by those who drive as you did and particularly in the heavily intoxicated condition that you were in that night.  The primary purpose of sentencing is to protect the safety of the community and that is no more evident than in situations such as this one.  General deterrence, that is, deterring other drivers, including young drivers, from engaging in dangerous acts of driving, especially while intoxicated, is also a very important sentencing consideration in these types of cases.

You are only 21 years old.  You were 20 years of age when you committed these offences.  You do not have a criminal history.  Your young age is quite clearly an important sentencing consideration.  The rehabilitation of young offenders is one of the objectives of the criminal law, although, as I have already observed, that needs to be balanced against deterring young drivers from driving as you did that night.

You have written a letter of apology to the victims.  In it you state that you are ashamed of your driving behaviour that placed their lives at risk.  You acknowledge that your consumption of alcohol affected your decisions that night, but you have not used that as an excuse.

It is very much to your credit and is clearly demonstrative of your remorse and contrition that not only did you accept early responsibility for the consequences of your dangerous driving by pleading guilty, but you came to this court and requested that your bail agreement be revoked and that you be remanded in custody.  You have acknowledged that you will be receiving a custodial penalty and decided it was best to face up to that consequence as soon as possible.

I also take into account that you attended the hospital and apologised to the victims as further evidence of your deep sense of guilt and remorse over your actions.  That would not have been an easy thing to have done and I give you credit for facing up to them in person for what you did.

You were born in India and are the only child of your parents.  You arrived in Australia in March 2019 on a student visa, with the financial assistance of your family, for the purpose of engaging in tertiary education.  You initially commenced a Bachelor of Business at Melbourne University before commencing a Diploma of Hospitality here in Adelaide at the College of Technical Education.  You have completed Certificates III and IV of that course.  To help fund your studies, you worked as a taxi driver.

Aside from the pain and suffering you have caused the victims, you have also caused your parents, who are in India, much stress and worry.  They have worked extremely hard to assist you with your studies and life in Australia.  Your dream of a life living and working in Australia is now over as your visa will be cancelled and you will be deported to India upon your release from prison.  You feel ashamed that all of your parents' hard work to see you better your life will come to nothing.

Your father has suffered from physical and mental health issues over many years.  He was slowly beginning to recover when the news of your situation resulted in a setback in his recovery.  Your absence from your parents in this time of need has not only impacted upon them but as caused you distress.

I now turn to sentence you for the offences.

Your dangerous driving was, as I have already observed, objectively very serious.  I also assess your moral culpability as being in the high range.  You deliberately drove while clearly intoxicated and at high speeds.  You had too many passengers in the vehicle. The risks associated with your dangerous driving in those circumstances was elevated.

Mrs Parry observed in her victim impact statement that you were seeking to fit in with people and trying to be popular and, as your counsel submitted, you made the decision to drive because you were the least intoxicated.  While explaining why you drove, it provides no mitigation for your dangerous driving at excessive speed.

In this case it is clearly appropriate to utilise s.26 of the Sentencing Act to impose a single sentence of imprisonment.

In relation to the four counts of aggravated dangerous driving causing serious harm, I indicate a sentence of three years and four months imprisonment for each count.  Each sentence is reduced by 15% to reflect your plea of guilty, such that each sentence is two years and 10 months imprisonment. You will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for 14 years on each count.

In relation to the single count of aggravated dangerous driving causing harm, I indicate a sentence of two years and six months imprisonment.  This sentence is reduced to one year, 10 months and 15 days imprisonment to reflect a 25% discount for your plea of guilty.  You will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for four years.

Having regard to the maximum penalties, your subjective circumstances and the conduct encompassed by the offences, involving, as it does, the one act of aggravated dangerous driving injuring five victims, that a total sentence of five years imprisonment is appropriate and that is the single sentence imposed.

This will be achieved by ordering partially concurrent sentences to the base sentence (being Count 1), in the following way: for Counts 3 to 5, two years and three months of each sentence will be served concurrently, and in relation to Count 2, one year, five months and 15 days will be served concurrently.

In recognition of your early guilty pleas, expressions of remorse and contrition, your youth and personal circumstances, I fix a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years.

I direct that the sentence commence from 20 May 2022 when you requested that your bail be revoked and you were remanded in custody.

In relation to the disqualification orders, they will all be served concurrently as I consider that a total of 14 years disqualification is appropriate.

In relation to the offence of failing to comply with a police direction to submit to an alcotest, you are fined the sum of $1,100 and disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver's licence for a period of 12 months, which disqualification period will also be served concurrently with the other periods of disqualification ordered by the court.

The disqualification of your driver's licence for the total period of 14 years operates or commences upon your release from prison.

ADJOURNED 9.35 A.M.



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