CRASH SCENE: Elm St at Cooroy was the scene of the deadly accident.
CRASH SCENE: Elm St at Cooroy was the scene of the deadly accident.

Family forgive drunk driver that killed their mother

A FAMILY devastated by the irresponsible actions of a drunk and stoned driver have been lauded by a judge for their willingness to forgive.

Gympie man Norman Morris was driving his wife of 56 years Jean to a medical appointment on September 9 last year when they were confronted by a red car on the wrong side of the road as they travelled along Elm St, Cooroy.

Behind the wheel of that red car was 44-year-old Pomona woman Allison Judith Butler, who had awoken that morning after a 12-hour drinking session.

Crown prosecutor Greg Cummings said Butler drank more than 550mL of rum before she went to sleep about 2am that day, waking up at 9.30am to drive herself to a Centrelink appointment in Cooroy.

Mr Cummings said she smoked three cones of marijuana before driving.

He said Butler had arrived in Cooroy early for the appointment so went to a hotel where she consumed a rum and cola while playing poker machines.

It was shortly before midday when a motorist witnessed erratic driving by Butler just before her head-on collision with Mr and Mrs Morris.

Mr Cummings said Butler had crashed into a guard rail before being on the wrong side of the road when the car being driven by Mr Morris approached.

"He had nowhere to go, no time to react," Mr Cummings said.

The Morris' were trapped in their vehicle.

The most serious of Mr Morris' injuries included a bleeding artery in his throat.

Mrs Morris succumbed to her injuries in hospital about 7pm that day.

It took 63 days of rehabilitation for Mr Morris to recover from his physical trauma.

The court also heard Butler had committed further drug offences just five days after the crash.

Victim impact statements prepared by three of Mr and Mrs Morris' children gave Judge Robertson insight into their suffering.

"They are moving and quite overwhelming," Judge Robertson said of the statements.

Mr Cummings said the family's main hope was that never again would a family be put through what they had been through.

Defence barrister Simon Lewis said his client had endured an unfortunate upbringing and had been abusing alcohol and marijuana since the age of 14.

"She clearly is remorseful for what has happened," Mr Lewis said.

In sentencing, Judge Robertson addressed the Morris children who were in the public gallery.

"I just wanted to say to you … that I read the victim impact statements," Judge Robertson said.

"They're objective, they're deeply moving…"

"I wanted to say how deeply impressed I am in your attitude towards this defendant."

He then turned to Butler, addressing her behaviour as grossly irresponsible and criminal.

He also referred to a traffic incident a few years earlier in which, after drinking a whole bottle of vodka, Butler had a serious crash.

"That should have been a wake-up call to you."

Judge Robertson again lauded the reaction of the Morris family.

"Because of their upbringing and their values they have elected to take the route of forgiveness which, in my long experience, is healthy and is profoundly gracious on their part."

Butler was sentenced to seven years in prison, to be eligible for parole after two.

She was banned from driving for life.

One of the Morris daughters, who did not want to be named, said after sentencing that she was pleased with the way Judge Robertson handled the case.

She said she missed her mother every day.

"Let's hope this is an opportunity for her (Butler) to make some good use of this and turn her life around," the daughter said.

Gympie Times

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