Adam Hourigan

Drink-driver who killed teenage passenger to stay in jail

A DRINK-DRIVER jailed over a Pacific Highway crash which claimed the life of a teenage boy and left his girlfriend critically injured, has failed in his bid to have his nine-year sentence overturned.

In the early hours of January 5, 2011 Grant David Wright made the boozy decision to take a 16-year-old boy who was staying with his family and his 14-year-old girlfriend on a road trip up the North Coast.

The Court of Criminal appeal heard that in the lead up to the crash the 44-year-old's behaviour behind the wheel was so risky, multiple drivers phoned police.

One said Wright's car had driven past him at what he estimated to be at least 200kph while a truck driver saw him speed past his B-Double with his hands out the window making a "peace sign" and drifting to the wrong side of the road.

After driving 38kms north from Tyndale, Wright lost control of his car and crashed into a line of trees.

His 16-year-old friend died at the scene.

The victim's girlfriend was airlifted to Lismore Base Hospital where she underwent nine hours of surgery to repair two broken femurs, a broken ankle, fractured ribs was given three blood transfusions.

She remained in hospital for two months.

In her victim impact statement, the girl, who is on medication for anti-depressants and post traumatic stress disorder, described herself as having a "very hard time coping with life" and said the thought of suicide had crossed her mind "many times".

An excerpt from the boy's mother's statement read "To entrust your child in the care of an adult that presents as responsible and trustworthy and to have that trust broken, is the worst of all deceptions."

Blood tests taken at the Lismore hospital revealed that at the time of the crash, Wright must have had a BAC of at least 0.157.

He was charged with aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death and aggravated dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

In January last year, the Grafton District Court heard Wright had an "appalling" traffic history stretching across Northern NSW and Queensland.

Wright apologised to the families of his victims and said that while he had "a pretty horrific childhood", it was "no excuse".

The presiding judge accepted Wright's apology was a "true expression of genuine remorse" and noted he appeared to be happily married and had a "genuine love and affection" for his children aged 17 and 15.

He took into account Wright's battle with mental illness but also the need for "general deterrence".

Wright was sentenced to nine-years jail with a non-parole period of five years and three months.

He appealed the sentence last week on the grounds it was "manifestly excessive".

But Justice Hulme said "this is a very bad case of aggravated driving causing death" and while it "was also possible to imagine driving that may have been more outrageous, the applicant's disgracefully irresponsible conduct is close to the worst type of offence of its kind".

He found that while the sentence was "stern", it was "within the legitimate exercise of his Honour's sentencing discretion".

Wright's appeal was dismissed.

He will be eligible for parole in February, 2018.

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