Devastating blow after crash couple’s death
The families of a pregnant couple killed by a teenager during a horror Australia Day crash have been dealt another devastating blow after a court knocked back an appeal to increase the boy’s sentence.
The full reasons can be revealed following a Queensland Court of Appeal judgment delivered earlier this week, after dual appeals against the boy’s 10-year jail term for the manslaughter of Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter back in 2021 were lodged by the Queensland Attorney-General and the boy’s own legal team.
But both applications were dismissed this week – the Court of Appeal instead upholding his initial sentence.
In a spectacular spray outside court, Mr Field’s father Russell declared Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and “lawmakers” had “more blood on their hands” as they rallied against the state’s contentious youth crime epidemic.
Calling for mandatory minimum sentences, Mr Field said: “If you steal a car, or even get into a stolen car, they should know now that they will be incarcerated for two years, five years, 10 years … I don’t really care.”
“We thought maybe some common sense would prevail,” he told reporters outside court.
“But we understand the judges are restrained by the existing laws of the state.
“So all we can do is accept the verdict and move on with our lives.”
Matthew Field, 37, his fiance Ms Leadbetter, 31, died after a stolen Landcruiser driven by the boy ploughed into them as they walked their dogs in Alexandra Hills on January 25, 2021.
Their unborn son, Miles, also died.
The teenager – who was 17 at the time – received the 10-year sentence in June last year, after pleading guilty to a raft of charges.
They included two counts of manslaughter, which had been downgraded from the initial charges of murder.
Despite the teenager now being 19, his name cannot be revealed under Queensland laws preventing the identification of child offenders.
During his sentencing, the court was told the boy stole a Landcruiser from a home in Cleveland on the day of the crash.
He drove it dangerously through the streets of Brisbane, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr, moving onto the wrong side of the road, and sideswiping cars during his rampage.
As the boy approached the intersection of Finucane and Vienna Rds in Alexandra Hills, he ran a red light.
Mr Field and Ms Leadbetter had crossed the median strip when the boy hit another vehicle at 90 km/hr, causing it to roll, and strike the couple.
They died instantly, Supreme Court Justice Martin Burns said during the boy’s sentencing.
The boy was ultimately jailed for 10 years but with time already served, along with his plea of guilty, remorse, and steps taken to rehabilitate being taken into account by the court, he will be released after serving only six years.
Queensland’s Attorney-General appealed the sentence – arguing it was “manifestly inadequate” because it did not reflect the seriousness of the boy’s offending.
But the boy’s legal team also launched an appeal arguing the sentence should be reduced.
In their judgment, the appeal judges upheld the boy’s initial 10-year sentence.
They said the he was not sentenced as a representative of a “cohort of offenders” and the sentencing judge was “fully cognisant” of the seriousness of the offending.
“The deterrent effect of the sentence follows from an appropriate and just punishment for the respondent in those circumstances,” the appeal judgment states.
“Community protection and denunciation arises from the imposition of a lengthy sentence … and the facilitation of (the boy’s) rehabilitation through the courses and programs available to him while he was first held in detention as a youth and then while in custody in the adult prison.
The judgment states the Attorney-General had failed to show it was an “exceptional case” which warranted the appeal.
The Attorney-General had also failed to show how the 10-year sentence was “unreasonable and plainly unjust”.
During the boy’s sentencing last year, the court was told he had an upbringing marked by significant neglect and drug abuse.
It included a 17-month stint in temporary foster care when he was just nine-years-old, while his mother was admitted for psychiatric treatment and his father was imprisoned.
He began using drugs at age 12 and was frequently absent from school due to the lack of proper parental care.
The boy would often run away and live between friends’ houses or in parks.
“He spent time with other vulnerable, disconnected youths involved in drug use and engaged in crime to obtain drugs and food,” the judgment states.
Justice Burns noted the boy was exposed to domestic violence and was physically abused by his stepfather.
A doctor had opined the child had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse disorders.
After the verdict was handed down, Mr Field rallied against Queensland’s contentious youth crime epidemic.