A TRUCK driver who hit and killed a cyclist at Wallsend in 2013 has been released on parole more than nine months ahead of schedule after the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal found the terminal illness of a close family member constituted “truly exceptional circumstances”.
Joel Anthony Costello, 35, was jailed for a maximum of three years and three months, with a non-parole period of one year and 10 months in Newcastle District Court in June last year after pleading guilty to causing the death of cyclist Andrew Ayre on August 18, 2013.
Costello’s “aggressive driving” and failure to heed the warning signs cost Mr Ayre his life. But, immediately after the crash, he tried to blame another driver, who he said wouldn’t let his truck change lanes as it headed along Minmi Road.
Then, once charged, he repeatedly changed legal representatives, stalling the case in the clogged local court system for more than two years while he remained at liberty, according to emotional victim impact statements read in Newcastle District Court last year.
As his trial date approached, Costello failed to appear in court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
About 10 days later he was arrested driving an unregistered truck on a suspended licence. He applied for bail, twice, and both times it was refused. He then pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death, having, according to his barrister Peter Harper, finally accepted responsibility for causing Mr Ayre’s death.
Last week the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal granted Costello immediate release from jail after hearing evidence that one of his close family members was terminally ill.
“The sentence which Mr Costello would otherwise have to serve for his serious offending, if the community’s proper expectations of punishment, retribution and deterrence were to be met, must be ameliorated by the need to extend mercy, in the truly exceptional circumstances which have only come to light and developed for his family, since Mr Costello was sentenced,” Justice Monika Schmidt said.
“The result is that both a somewhat lesser sentence and a shorter non-parole period must be imposed on Mr Costello.”
Justice Schmidt upheld the appeal, quashed the original sentence and sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of three years, with a non-parole period of 1 year and 14 days. Costello was released on parole last Tuesday.
The sentence which Mr Costello would otherwise have to serve for his serious offending ... must be ameliorated by the need to extend mercy.