‘Blown away’: Broken arm, leg equalled slap on wrist

Children caught driving dangerously or while drunk or drugged are escaping with their licence intact when they are given cautions or diversions.

It comes as the State Government moved to strengthen laws around youth justice to target Queensland's 400 recidivist juvenile offenders.

The changes came about after Kate Leadbetter and Matthew Field were killed on Australia Day, allegedly by a youth in a stolen car, as they walked their dogs in Alexandra Hills.

Kate and Matthew were expecting their first child, a baby boy they planned to name Miles.

The teenager driver posted photos of himself from his hospital bed. Picture: Supplied.
The teenager driver posted photos of himself from his hospital bed. Picture: Supplied.

And aspiring policewoman Jennifer Board, 22, was killed in Townsville on February 5 by an alleged "vigilante" driver accused of chasing youths in a stolen car.

Shane Pitt, whose brother is Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt, was the victim of a head-on crash in 2018 involving a 17-year-old driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel.

The youth responsible was given a caution with no implications on his licence despite both he and Mr Pitt suffering serious injuries.

The teen told police he had had only an hour of sleep the night before because he had been drinking with friends.

He later posted photos of himself on social media, including some of him inside the wreckage and more smiling from his hospital bed, with one captioned: "F … c …, I can't even walk."

Mr Pitt told how he was shocked to learn the youth would not be punished for the crash that left him with a broken arm and leg and permanent damage to his vision.

"Essentially (kids) are hopping in a two-tonne weapon and can do whatever (they) want," he said. "It's not good enough."

Mr Pitt said he and a colleague were driving along Elliott Heads Rd in Windemere when he noticed a car coming in the opposite direction driving erratically.

"I beeped the horn thinking that he's looking at his radio (or) looking at his phone," he said.

"He'd actually fallen asleep. At the last second, he just pulled straight across in front of me and I didn't have any time to do anything.

"I was just ridiculously lucky (not to die) to be honest with you."

Shane Pitt was badly injured in a head-on car crash with a youth who fell asleep behind the wheel. The young driver was given a caution and kept his licence. Picture Supplied
Shane Pitt was badly injured in a head-on car crash with a youth who fell asleep behind the wheel. The young driver was given a caution and kept his licence. Picture Supplied

Mr Pitt said he was pinned by his legs and was terrified he would be burnt alive when he saw smoke coming from the engine bay.

"I started panicking a bit then," he said.

He said he was able to straighten his leg and crawl out through the back of the car.

Mr Pitt, his passenger and the driver of the other car were all taken to hospital.

The youth told police he'd had "three or four" drinks with friends the night before and was dropping his friend home when the crash happened.

"It's not like I was expecting him to go to jail for the rest of his life," Mr Pitt said.

"My expectation was, I would ring the police and they'd say to me, we've issued him with a fine and he will lose his licence.

"The last thing I was expecting was a caution.

"I was just blown away. Lucky I was sitting down, otherwise I would have fallen over."

One legal professional told The Courier-Mail that while cautions were "incredibly successful" in 90 per cent of cases, for some it was a loophole that meant they could keep driving even after being caught drunk behind the wheel.

"If a court finds a police officer should have diverted the child, the charge goes away and they are not disqualified (from driving)," the legal professional said.

LNP MP and former police detective Dan Purdie said he had been told 17-year-old drivers were "routinely" getting off serious offences like drink driving, drug driving and dangerous driving.

"It's unacceptable that 17-year-old drivers are getting off life endangering traffic offences with a slap on the wrist," he said.

"P-platers are the most inexperienced drivers on our roads and they are in a high risk category for fatal accidents.

"A licence is a responsibility, not a right, and there should be strict penalties in place when young drivers do the wrong thing

"In the hands of an inexperienced driver, a vehicle is a dangerous weapon.

"The reforms to youth justice announced earlier this week are a good start, but will do nothing to kerb these young offenders."

Originally published as 'Blown away': Broken arm, leg equalled slap on wrist


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