28/10/2021

Bethel creek crash driver sent to jail

A driver is now serving terms in the correctional facility after he admitted to killing four of his passengers in a car crash on Malekula last year.

The driver who is an elder in Seventh Day Adventist Church said that he had fixed his vehicle three days earlier but there must be some black magic at play causing the accident.

Alwyn Charly pleaded guilty to one count each of causing death by reckless driving and intentional harm causing death.

Justice Andree Wiltens said that at around 5 am on September 4, 2020, Charly was driving a Blue Mazda BT50 with several passengers on board.

He said that Charly held no valid driving licence, his vehicle was not issued with a roadworthiness certificate or public vehicle permits, and he held no third party insurance.

The judge said on the journey from Espikils Bay, North West Malekula the right front wheel brake disk pads fell off the vehicle but Charly continued on regardless.

At Bethel Creek the vehicle descended a hill and Charly lost control and went sideways down the road for 20-25 metres, righted the vehicle, but then over-corrected and rolled the vehicle. It ended upside down resting on its roof.

Four passengers were injured while four others were killed as a result of the accident.

He said that the maximum penalty for causing death by reckless driving is five years imprisonment and any penalty imposes should reflect the seriousness of the offending.

Charly was also ordered to surrender all his driving documents for five years.

The maximum sentence for unintentional harm causing death is also 5 years imprisonment.

He said that there are no mitigating aspects to the offending. However, there is an element of duplication in the charges in that both charges allege the conduct concerned resulted in the loss of life.

The aggravating factors to the offending include the driver did not hold a valid driving licence and therefore should not have been driving.

Justice Wiltens said that the vehicle had not passed the current roadworthiness test, and should not have been on the road, his vehicle was not permitted as a public transport vehicle and Charly should not have been operating the vehicle as a public transport vehicle.

He said that the fact that Charly had at least 8 passengers on board, the fact that he continued to drive after his vehicle’s brakes had ceased to operate, caused the vehicle to speed up going downhill which caused him to lose control.

Four people were seriously injured while four others were killed on impact.

 The court said that this case is so serious in terms of criminal culpability that a sentence start point of four years imprisonment is called for. That sentence reflects the total criminal culpability of the two charges on a concurrent basis.

He said that the driver is entitled to a discount for a prompt plea. In my view, the maximum discount where the evidence is as strong, as it is in this case, is 20 percent.

The discount reflects Charly’s acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the saving of court time/expense but the court did not consider his pleas to demonstrate true remorse.

Charly is 65 years of age, married with seven children, one of whom is still of age at school. He currently sustains his family through gardening.

The driver is the head elder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and a tribal leader in his community. He has no previous convictions and he claimed to be very sorry for the loss of life he has caused as well as the injuries to others.

During explanation for the offending, Mr Charly stated to the Pre-Sentence Report writer that he had changed the vehicle’s brake pads three days prior to the accident. He believed black magic was at play in causing the accident.

The chiefs from his village and tribe had performed custom reconciliation ceremonies with the people of Pinalum village, Wala and Atchin. He further advised he and his brothers are planning to hold further ceremonies with the families of the deceased.

For his personal factors, I further reduce the sentence start point by 6 months.

The end sentence imposed is two years eight months imprisonment for both charges and Justice Wiltens ordered the sentences to be served concurrently.