Jail sentence cut for drugged driver who killed a child

TRAGIC SCENE: Joshua Adam Thomas has had his sentence for dangerous driving causing death reduced.
TRAGIC SCENE: Joshua Adam Thomas has had his sentence for dangerous driving causing death reduced. FILE

AN IPSWICH man who killed a child while driving high on meth has had his sentence reduced in the state's highest court and could be released from jail as early as next year.

The court found that the sentence was manifestly excessive because there was no element of deliberate or protracted recklessness in Joshua Adam Thomas' manner of driving at the time of the crash.

Thomas pleaded guilty last year in the Ipswich District Court to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death stemming from the crash on August 14, 2012, which killed his flatmate's seven-year-old daughter Aleigha Stelzer.

The court heard Thomas, who was also on a good behaviour bond at the time, had been smoking meth all day before he left to collect his three children, and the daughter of a friend, from school and day care.

Once he picked up the children he proceeded to drive home along Henty Drive at Redbank Plains before he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed head on with a tree.

The young girl was killed instantly.

The court heard a subsequent blood test revealed Thomas had more than twice the toxic level of meth in his system at the time of the crash.

The Queensland Court of Appeal, in handing down its decision yesterday, ruled the sentence was manifestly excessive despite saying Thomas' traffic history was extensive and poor.

The court heard, during a hearing in September last year, Thomas had a number of traffic offences since 2003 next to his name including drink, disqualified and unlicensed driving.

The court also heard Thomas had being using marijuana since 11 and his drug taking increased to the point where he was taking meth regularly from the age of 17. But the court's decision to reduce Thomas' sentence was not unanimous.

Justices Catherine Holmes and Debra Mullins said they did not believe Thomas' driving at the time of the crash was deliberately reckless, given he had in fact made it to the school and was on his way home when the crash occurred.

"Thomas must have known he had to travel 3.5kms in an impaired condition with the children in his car, and that impaired condition created an inherent danger in the act of driving," they said.

"But there is no evidence that any of the driving up to the point at which the applicant lost control of his vehicle was overtly dangerous."

"A term of nine years imprisonment might have been appropriate if there had been some element of deliberate or protracted recklessness in the Thomas' manner of driving."

Justice Philip Morrison said he would have refused Thomas' appeal.

The court ordered that Thomas be eligible to apply for parole in September, 2016, after serving two years and four months of his sentence.

Topics:  dangerous operation of a motor vehicle editors picks ipswich district court queensland court of appeal

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