No jail for Vic driver over police death

Benita Kolovos
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JOHN COWBURN COURT

John Cowburn killed an off-duty police officer who was cycling with his daughter

The family of an off-duty police officer killed as he was cycling with his daughter in Melbourne say they are suffering a life sentence while the driver who crashed into him is spared jail.

John Cowburn, 61, was sentenced in Victoria's County Court on Wednesday to a three-year community corrections order after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Sergeant Kenneth Rich in April 2017.

The court heard Cowburn hit the 55-year-old, who was cycling with his adult daughter Charlene on the Princes Highway at Pakenham on Good Friday, during a "moment of inattention".

He was likely watching Ms Rich in his side mirror after she came off her bike in the moments before the crash and did not see her father until it was too late.

Sgt Rich, a devoted husband and father-of-five adult children, had been in the police force since 1980 and stationed at Narre Warren for 25 years at the time of his death.

Outside court, Charlene Rich described how her family's world was torn apart.

"He was such a family man and his world revolved around us and the family, so without him, our world is just shattered," she told reporters.

"We're living a life sentence. We have to live without dad. So at the end of the day, no punishment is really going to be enough."

In sentencing Cowburn, Judge Paul Lacava took into account his age, good character and lack of criminal history.

He said the bricklayer suffered ongoing stress, anxiety and insomnia as a result of being involved in the death of Sgt Rich.

"By your dangerous driving you caused the death of a husband, father, son ... adored by all," Judge Lacava said.

"You will have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life."

Cowburn sobbed as the judge told him to exit the dock and sit beside his lawyer.

As part of his sentence, Cowburn cannot drive for 18 months and will have to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work.

"His thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased," Cowburn's solicitor Ian Hone told reporters outside court.

"It's a tragic incident that's affected everyone and we hope now that people can get on with their lives."