The West

Teen jailed over fatal drag race
The crash scene in Willetton.

An 18-year-old has been sentenced to 14 months in jail for his role in a drag race with a friend that ended in an innocent motorist being killed in Willetton two years ago.

The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was aged 16 when he raced his friend, then also 16, on Vahland Avenue on February 4, 2011.

He was convicted in November last year of manslaughter after a judge alone District Court trial.

His friend, who was sentenced to 21 months in juvenile detention after pleading guilty to manslaughter, was driving at about 130kmh when he smashed his mother's high-powered Holden Statesman into a vehicle driven by 51-year-old Coolbellup man Leon Thomas, killing him.

The teen sentenced today in the Perth District Court was charged with manslaughter because the friends had jointly decided on a criminal enterprise that had a probable consequence of someone getting killed.

While his co-offender has already served his time in detention, the teen will serve his time in an adult prison because he is over 18.

Judge Allan Fenbury said sentencing the teenager with the knowledge it would be in an adult prison was a difficult consideration but rejected a defence plea to suspend the jail term, noting the offence was too serious to justify that action.

The friends, who were both learner drivers and had friends in their cars, engaged in "extremely dangerous" behaviour, racing at about 3pm on a weekday on a busy road close to primary schools.

The judge said the teenager sentenced today instigated the race, but was driving a less powerful car - a Subaru RX four cylinder - than his friend who passed him about 100m before the crash.

Judge Fenbury said it was absolutely tragic the teen had put himself in this position, but said Mr Thomas' wife had lost her childhood sweetheart and her victim impact statement made for difficult and painful reading.

The teen had pleaded guilty but changed it to not guilty based on legal advice, the court was told.

Judge Fenbury said although the co-offender bore a greater responsibility, he had pleaded guilty and cooperated with authorities.

He today made the teenager, who has no previous record, eligible for parole.

Defence lawyer Tony Elliott said his client had been ostracised by friends, had to change schools and would lose his job because of an "impetuous" and "spur of the moment" decision.

State prosecutor Sean Stocks said both offenders showed the same lack of consideration for the road rules and wanted to appear like men in front of their friends. He said Mr Thomas died because of both boys' decision to race.

Outside court, WA Police Det-Sgt David Byrne said he hoped Mr Thomas' family would now be provided with some closure.

He said this case served as a warning to others that they could be held legally responsible for a crash even if they were not physically involved in the collision.

Det-Sgt Byrne said it was important for parents and families to properly supervise their children with vehicles.

The West Australian

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