The West

Janet Woollard has spoken out for the first time about the boating accident caused by her drunken son more than four years ago, saying it had taken a huge financial and emotional toll on her family.

But the independent Alfred Cove MP remains adamant her 23-year-old son Luke, who lives at the family home in Applecross, cannot pay $230,000 in compensation to Kate Campbell, 24, as ordered by a court because he has no money.

Ms Campbell suffered horrific injuries when the uninsured speedboat Mr Woollard was driving crashed into a navigation pylon near Canning Bridge in the early hours of November 7, 2007. Dr Woollard said her son, the fourth of her six children, had taken responsibility for the accident and did not expect her and his father, cardiologist Keith Woollard, to bail him out financially after they supported him through legal action.

Appearing tired yesterday after returning from Canada where she attended a foetal alcohol syndrome conference, Dr Woollard said she regretted not speaking out earlier but did so on legal advice and to protect her family's privacy.

She vowed to keep lobbying for laws to limit the harm from alcohol and would stand at the next State election in the hope the community would continue to support her.

Dr Woollard said her son had already paid a high price for what was an accident. She said it was his decision - made while she was overseas - to speak publicly last week about not expecting his parents to pay the compensation.

"I've kept away from talking about this issue because it's very personal," she said. "I was advised by lawyers not to talk about Luke's accident so we followed that advice.

"But in hindsight I think we should have said something."

Dr Woollard said she had read stories about problem drinking in young people but since the accident it had became real for her.

There was now a strong social culture of drinking to get drunk.

She had not allowed her children to drink alcohol at home until they were 18.

When her son gave up drinking for two years after the accident, she joined him.

But she would not be drawn on claims that she and her husband should be willing to pay the compensation after helping to finance their son's legal action.

Mr Woollard was given a suspended jail term for injuring Ms Campbell and another of his seven passengers.

When he was sentenced in the District Court in December 2008, then-chief judge Antoinette Kennedy took the "substantial debt" of a likely payout into account in not fining Mr Woollard.

Ms Campbell sued Mr Woollard and in March was awarded $230,000 in damages after a six-day trial.

Dr Woollard maintained yesterday Ms Campbell was offered $100,000 at the start of the civil proceedings and she believed accepting that would have been the best outcome for everyone.

"We believe that amount would have fairly compensated Kate for her medical costs," she said.

"I obviously wish she had accepted it because they knew Luke had no assets. He has done all he can to say sorry.

"He's accepted his mistake and gone public but from some of the comments about him you would think he was a monster."

Dr Woollard said she accepted the matter was not over and was likely to haunt her in her parliamentary work. But her family was strong and her other children had rallied around their brother.

She was grateful Ms Campbell had made a good recovery.

"We're really pleased Kate has done so well and the health care system did such a great job looking after her," she said.

"Yes, Kate has suffered and it's not over for her but it's not over for Luke either and never will be.

"He has a criminal record and has to live with what happened that night. The trial came at a huge personal as well as financial cost for everyone involved."

Ms Campbell said yesterday the $100,000 was a "fake offer" that would not have covered her medical and legal costs and general damages, particularly as its value paid in instalments over 10 years would have dropped to less than $75,000.

She also questioned why the Woollards did not pay the compensation and get their son to repay them.

The West Australian

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