Drunk drive nurse left man with broken neck

May 16, 2017

A NURSE who left her passenger with a broken neck after a drunken crash in Echuca has avoided jail.

Laura Palmer, 23, of Boort, appeared in Echuca Magistrates Court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to negligently causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering serious injury and drunk driving.

Palmer was driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.164 — more than three times the legal limit — when she crashed into the back of a stationary truck on High St on September 11 last year.

The crash left her friend with a broken neck, bruised spine and multiple lacerations, and he was airlifted to hospital in Melbourne where he remained for one week.

Police prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Chris Jones said Palmer and a group of friends, including the victim, had been drinking at the Shamrock Hotel in Rochester for several hours before the incident.

Palmer told police she consumed between eight and 10 alcoholic drinks, as well as two shots of spirits.

At 12.10am, Palmer and the victim left the hotel and drove 28km to Echuca with the intention to eat McDonald’s.

The pair made it to High St before crashing at about 12.50am.

Palmer, a nurse at Boort District Health, was interviewed by police on October 15 and told them she could not remember anything after leaving the hotel.

The victim sat next to Palmer in court on Tuesday and, although a victim impact statement was tendered, he remained supportive of his friend.

Magistrate Michael King commended him, saying: ‘‘I admire you for your forgiveness and graciousness.’’

The court heard Palmer had planned to stay at a friend’s house in Rochester — within walking distance of the hotel — on the night of the incident.

Several character references were tendered to the court in support of Palmer including from her employer and her colleagues.

Her mother also provided a letter in which she said her daughter felt ‘‘terrible guilt and shame’’ and must face the consequences of her actions.

Leading Sen Const. Jones said he did not oppose a community corrections order (CCO), but he reminded the court of the seriousness of the incident.

‘‘Quite frankly, having looked at the photos of the truck, it’s lucky we’re not sitting in the Coroners Court,’’ he said.

In sentencing, Mr King said Palmer’s charges were ‘‘very serious’’.

‘‘You chose to drive to Echuca for the purpose to visit McDonald’s. It was a very expensive meal indeed,’’ he said.

‘‘As a nurse, you more than anyone would be aware of the consequences of drunk driving.

‘‘You’re fortunate you or your passenger were not killed. That amount of alcohol in your system means your reaction time to see dangers on the road is severely impaired.’’

But Mr King said prison was unwarranted and he acknowledged Palmer was a young woman otherwise of good character.

‘‘Everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, yours was very serious. But that doesn’t mean you have to torture yourself for the rest of your life.’’

He convicted Palmer, placed her on an 18-month CCO and ordered her to complete 250 hours of unpaid community work.

Her licence was also disqualified for two years.

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