DVD-distracted driver jailed over death

Tim Dornin

Harvie Spencer was driving to church with his wife when his life was taken in an instant, the 86-year-old's body left slumped over the steering wheel, his head covered in a "crown" of blood.

His Holden Commodore had been hit from behind by a ute travelling at 110 km/h, its driver, Mitchell Deane Franklin, distracted for at least eight to 10 seconds by a wrestling DVD playing in his car.

The impact was so severe that the ute mounted the back of the Commodore and pushed it some distance down the road.

On Thursday Franklin was jailed for more than three years for causing Mr Spencer's death by dangerous driving and for also causing injury to a passenger in his own car in the crash in SA's mid-north in June, 2013.

In the SA District Court Judge Paul Muscat described the crash and the death of Mr Spencer as "utterly avoidable".

He agreed with the victim's family who said the crash was not an accident but a "selfish, self-indulgent, senseless and reckless act".

Judge Muscat said Mr Spencer's wife Mary, who has since died, lost her husband of 62 years.

"Mrs Spencer had to live the rest of her life alone, and with the haunting memory of seeing her husband slumped over the steering wheel with a crown of blood over his head," he said.

"For a long time after the crash that was the image that came to her when she closed her eyes at night."

Judge Muscat said the jury had rejected Franklin's explanation that, while he had put the DVD on, he had not watched it at all on the drive from Roxby Downs.

"Your evidence on that issue was simply unbelievable," the judge said.

"It defied all ordinary human behaviour and ordinary human temptation.

"Your insistence that you never once looked at the screen was so incredible that it bordered on the absurd."

But the judge said the 28-year-old's offending did not involve any criminal intent and he accepted the security guard was deeply sorry for what he had done.

Judge Muscat said Franklin's offending was in the more serious category for such crimes and jailed him for three years and six months and set a non-parole period of two years, nine months and 18 days.

Outside the court, Mr Spencer's son Colin said the family was content with the sentence.

"I was hoping for maybe five years for a head sentence, but three and a half years, we're happy with that," he said.

"At least that will give him time to sit back, and not have a family [like us] to come home to each night."