A driver who hit and killed a pedestrian when distracted reaching for a vase on her passenger seat has been spared jail because of her remorse and “parlous” mental state.
Patricia Mica was moving house on July 5, 2019 when she took her eyes off the road when trying to prevent a vase falling from the front seat and hit Astrid Norman in Riversdale Road, Camberwell.
Ms Norman, 75, had walked halfway across the road and was waiting for a break on the other side when Mica’s car hit her at 1.50pm, causing fatal injuries. The grandmother died at the scene.
Prosecutors accepted that Mica’s vision of the road ahead was obscured by a car in front, but argued she had a clear view of Ms Norman for three seconds.
County Court judge Fran Dalziel accepted the 38-year-old had time to react to Ms Norman standing on the road but didn’t, either through distraction or another error.
Mica pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, an offence which usually warrants a jail term, but Judge Dalziel found there were exceptional circumstances to spare her from prison. To someone uninformed of the facts of the case, she said, such a sentence might seem inadequate.
“I consider, however, that in view of your plea of guilty, your very real remorse and contrition, that the dangerousness of your driving was near the lowest end of the range and your parlous mental state, that it is unnecessary to impose a sentence of imprisonment,” the judge told Mica on Friday.
Mica must serve a three-year community correction order comprising mental health treatment and 400 hours of unpaid work. Her licence was cancelled and she cannot obtain one for 18 months.
Ms Norman lived with daughter Emma and her granddaughters, and was remembered as a “beautiful soul” who was empathetic and compassionate.
Emma previously told the court: “This was her time to enjoy life without the pressures of trying to fend for herself. It was her time to have peace, to watch the lives of her granddaughters blossom. It was her time to see her daughter – me – go through a positive life experience and be the woman she knew lived inside me.”
Mica was not speeding or affected by alcohol or drugs, and stopped at the scene.
A psychiatrist diagnosed a major depressive disorder after Mica attempted suicide afterwards and showed symptoms for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Dalziel said Mica was a person of otherwise “exemplary” character who prayed for forgiveness and for Ms Norman’s soul, and had been unable to tell her family in her native Romania about the crash.
“This case highlights the level of care and attention required by drivers and the tragic consequences that can follow when a driver is distracted or inattentive, even for a short time,” the judge said.
Prosecutors had argued for a prison term and the judge said she would have jailed Mica for 2½ years had she fought the charge and been found guilty.
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