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Australia Drug driver Ricky Butler jailed for killing young Adelaide woman Aiesha Smith in crash

13:31  18 june  2021
13:31  18 june  2021 Source:   abc.net.au

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A speeding driver who was under the influence of drugs when he killed a young woman in a crash in Adelaide's north last year has been sentenced to more than five years in jail.

South Australia's District Court heard Ricky Neville Butler, 48, was speeding and under the influence of cocaine when he ran a red light at Waterloo Corner, killing Aiesha Smith, 23, and injuring her boyfriend Matt Price.

Butler pleaded guilty to causing death and harm by dangerous driving over the crash in March 2020.

He faced a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but was instead given a head sentence of five years and seven months.

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He was granted a 30 per cent discount on his sentence for an early guilty plea, and is eligible for parole in four years and five months.

Judge Patrick O'Sullivan said data retrieved from his ute showed he was travelling between 111 and 114 kilometres per hour about five seconds before the crash.

"You turned your vehicle into a lethal weapon, which has had predictable and devastating consequences," Judge O'Sullivan said.

"You've deprived a young woman of her future.

"Although you applied the breaks two seconds prior to impact, you struck the Hyundai between 62 and 68 kph — the impact caused your vehicle to rotate 180 degrees in an anti-clockwise direction."

The judge said weather conditions were fine at the time, and that Port Wakefield Road was "in good condition".

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"The road was generally straight and level at the time you collided with the Hyundai, [and] traffic conditions were light," Judge O'Sullivan said.

"At least 7.5 seconds had elapsed since the lights had turned yellow — you told the police you last saw the lights when they were green, meaning you suffered from a period of inattention of at least 7.5 seconds."

Butler will 'continue to punish' himself

Judge O'Sullivan said a report provided to the court revealed the concentration of cocaine in Butler's blood indicated that he had used a "significant amount" of the drug "in the 24 hours prior to the accident".

"At the time of the collision you are most likely to have been experiencing the rebound effects of cocaine use some hours prior to the accident," he said.

"Your driving is most likely to have been affected by failure to concentrate fully on the road.

"The situation that confronted both passers-by and the emergency services personnel was traumatic."

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The court heard Butler had never been a heavy user of alcohol and that he denied knowing how cocaine was in his bloodstream.

In May, Aiesha's mother Kellee Smith told the court her daughter's death had left her feeling "like the bottom has been ripped out of my world".

She said doctors had told her she would never have children, but she fell pregnant with Aiesha years later.

Today, Butler sobbed as he was sentenced.

Judge O'Sullivan said Butler is unsure of how to move forward in his life and has experienced deep sadness since the accident.

"You do not want to reduce your suffering as you believe this is disrespectful to Aiesha," Judge O'Sullivan said.

"You will continue to punish yourself for the rest of your life for what happened."

Outside court, Ms Smith's partner Glenn Fitz-Patrick said that, before she was killed, Aiesha had grown into a "beautiful young woman" who was "headstrong and full of heart".

"Ever since the accident everything has become a struggle — we're fractured, exhausted," he said.

Despite their grief at losing a child, Ms Smith's family described the sentence as fair, given the impact the sentence will have on Butler's children.

"They're kids, you don't want kids to suffer no matter what happens on the roads or out there. We might resent him but we don't resent them," Mr Fitz-Patrick said.

Butler's lawyer Stacey Carter said the jail-term was expected.

"Nobody gets up in the morning and thinks that they may kill someone that day so overall it's been a very, very sad day," she said.

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