A respected Australian soldier who was drunk and speeding when he crashed his motorcycle and his pillion passenger died has been jailed for 15 months.
Despite a prosecution submission that a suspended jail term was an option open to the court, Magistrate Dianne Scaddan sentenced Giles Nelson Graham to the immediate jail term after taking into account the need for general deterrence, the high level of culpability and he serious consequences of the offence.
Graham, who will be eligible for parole after serving 7 1/2 months, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning the death of 23-year-old Carli Rustand.
Graham also admitted a charge of excess 0.08 after giving a blood alcohol reading of 0.107 and was travelling 21kmh over the speed limit when the motorcycle crashed on Riverside Drive on March 4 last year.
The crash happened just weeks before new laws made it mandatory for fatal driving cases to be sent to the District Court, where the maximum jail term for the offence increases from three to 10 years.
Outside the court after the sentence, Ms Rustand's heartbroken parents said their daughter had not died in vain.
"I know that Giles has learnt a lesson from this and he will have to live with it forever, but at least he gets to live and we will never have our daughter back," mother Terri Rustand said.
"She will never have a wedding, we will never have a grandchild.
"It is a surprising outcome, it is not something that we wanted or expected. But I hope that this will deter anyone else from taking a stupid risk and that they will think, just listen to that little voice in their head when they are about to make a stupid mistake and realise that you could be responsible for taking someone's life and could absolutely ruin yours."
Earlier this morning, defence lawyer Laurie Levy told the court that Graham was genuinely remorseful and accepted full responsibility for the fatal crash.
Mr Levy said his client's remorse was evident in comments he had made to the writer of a pre-sentence report.
"I am never going to forgive myself," Graham told the writer. "How can I be a good man when I have so much blood on my hands?"
Mr Levy said Graham's comments referred not only to the crash, but also to his time during two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Graham had been involved in 15 major fire fights with the enemy at had seen the deaths of three Australian soldiers and another five being wounded.
Mr Levy said Graham had no previous record and was facing being involuntarily discharged from the Australian Army.
The 24-year-old had also suffered significant injuries in the crash, including multiple spinal fractures.
"In all the circumstances....all the sentencing considerations can be adequately dealt with by a term of suspended imprisonment," Mr Levy said.
Prosecutor Brent Meertens did not call for an immediate jail term and said it was accepted that a suspended prison sentence was one appropriate penalty.
But Ms Scaddan said the offence had not involved a momentary lapse of attention, rather Graham had made a foolish decision after consuming alcohol to take a pillion passenger and to ride at speed.While she recognised Graham's personal circumstances were all in his favour, Ms Scaddan said it was not appropriate to suspend the jail term.