Driver appeal over 12-year term for deadly Cessnock crash

SHE drove at more than 200km/h before losing control of the unregistered car on a bend, killing two teenagers and maiming three other young passengers who were crammed into the vehicle.

But yesterday, lawyers for Belinda May Duncan, sentenced to 12 years and six months’ jail for the horror Coalfields crash, told the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal the sentence was ‘‘manifestly excessive’’ and her case should not be counted among the worst in its category.

The Sydney court also heard arguments that Judge John North had not adequately balanced Duncan’s ‘‘self punishment’’ against her ‘‘gross moral culpability’’ in sentencing her over the crash on Duffie Drive near Cessnock in the early hours of October 7, 2009.

Her ostracism from her family and community and the public vilification she had since experienced should also have been given more weight, Duncan’s barrister Hament Dhanji, SC, said.

The crash claimed the lives of Cassandra Ford, 15, and Jayde Duncan, 13, when the car crossed to the wrong side of the road and struck a number of trees before the vehicle tore in half.

Kara Duncan and Brad Parnell, who were 16 at the time, survived, as did Jake Wyborn, 21.

They suffered terrible injuries, with Kara Duncan and Mr Parnell each losing a leg.

For the two manslaughter charges, Judge North sentenced Duncan, of Kurri Kurri, to nine years and six months’ imprisonment for each, with non-parole periods of five years.

For three counts of aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, he sentenced Duncan to three years’ jail for each offence.

She would be eligible for parole in February 2019, with the total sentence to expire in August 2023.

Mr Dhanji told the court yesterday that Duncan, who pleaded guilty, had shown remorse, and while it was ‘‘a bad case’’ it should not be counted in the worst category.

He said it was appropriate that Judge North had incorporated some accumulation of the individual sentences into the total sentence, but consideration should be given to ensuring this was ‘‘appropriate but not crushing’’.

‘‘The sentence I would submit in this case is crushing,’’ he said.

Nicole Noman, for the Crown, said Duncan’s ostracism was ‘‘not an unexpected result for this type of offending’’ and was partly due to her own failure to initially accept responsibility, which she denied for about 12 months after the crash.

Duncan also had three prior speeding violations, and had been warned she was to lose her licence but chose to speed anyway with tragic consequences for children to whom she owed a duty of care.

‘‘This was very serious conduct that had ramifications on five victims in profoundly different ways but all of them serious,’’ Ms Noman told the court.

She said Judge North had given proper consideration to Duncan’s adverse treatment in the community since the crash.

Justices John Basten, Reg Blanch and Peter Hall reserved their decision.

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