National

Fatal drag race driver’s sentence slashed

By AAP Newswire

A man who caused the deaths of two teenagers in Melbourne drag race will walk from prison sooner, after having his sentence slashed on appeal.

Adem Arpaci was jailed in 2018 for up to 14 years for culpable driving causing the deaths of Harley Churchill, 19, and his 18-year-old passenger Ivana Clonaridis more than two years prior.

Arpaci was drag racing Mr Churchill before the latter man's ute crashed through a Keilor East bridge barrier at 182 km/h and burst into flames on January 27, 2016.

Victoria's Court of Appeal on Tuesday reduced Arpaci's sentence to 10 years and six months, finding the original punishment was excessive.

Arpaci, then aged 21, had been at an illegal burnout meeting before getting Mr Churchill to drag race him along Melbourne's Western Ring Road.

A first jury failed to reach a verdict, but Arpaci was convicted by a second and ordered to serve at least nine-and-a-half years' jail.

But the appeal found the original sentence failed to give enough weight to Mr Churchill's significant contribution to the crash.

The 19-year-old had been directly responsible for Ms Clonaridis' safety and breached his duty of care, Justice Stephen Kaye said.

Another of the three judges, Phillip Priest, would have acquitted Arpaci over Mr Churchill's death and ordered a new trial relating to Ms Clonaridis' death.

Mr Churchill's ute fishtailed after blowing a tyre during the drag race, causing the ute to crash off the bridge and roll down a ravine.

"Harley Churchill's driving was, in my view, the immediate and proximate cause of his death. (Arpaci's) driving was not," Justice Priest said.

But he was was outnumbered two-to-one.

Justice Kaye and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell agreed it was open for the jury to find, beyond reasonable doubt, Arpaci's actions had been the substantial cause of both teens' deaths.

Arpaci must serve at least seven years before being eligible for release on parole.