The South Australian government will consider reforms to dangerous driving laws after the outcome of a court case involving the death of young pedestrian Sophia Naismith.
- Sophia Naismith, 15, was on a footpath when she was fatally struck
- Driver Alexander Campbell was acquitted of causing death by dangerous driving
- Attorney-General says there’s a gulf between that offense and the less serious one
The 15-year-old girl was fatally hit at Glengowrie when driver Alexander Campbell lost control of his Lamborghini Huracan on the night of June 22, 2019.
Ms Naismith was on the footpath with a friend outside the House of Tien along Morphett Road at the time.
Campbell later pleaded guilty to driving without due care, but was yesterday acquitted of the more serious offense of death by dangerous driving.
He is yet to be sentenced.
Ms Naismith’s district parents spoke outside court after the verdict, saying the legal system had “failed us and all South Australian families whose innocent children deserve to feel safe on our roads and footpaths”.
Attorney-General Kyam Maher today told ABC Radio Adelaide’s David Bevan the SA government would examine dangerous driving laws, including the possibility of strengthening them by creating a new offense category.
Mr Maher said there was a significant discrepancy between penalties for cases of driving without due care, and cases of death by dangerous driving.
“We will have to look at [if there] is something in between the two offenses the person was charged with here,” Mr Maher said.
“He’s pleaded guilty to driving without due care — that has a maximum [jail] penalty of 12 months — but was acquitted of the cause of death by dangerous driving, which has a maximum of 15 years.
“Is there… a mid-tier offense between those two?”
Mr Maher said the gulf between the two offenses had previously been exposed by the notorious case involving lawyer Eugene McGee and the death of cyclist Ian Humphrey in 2003.
McGee was found guilty of driving without due care in 2005, but acquitted of causing death by dangerous driving.
“Certainly the law does change and evolve and react when a circumstance comes up, but there isn’t a law that currently fits the circumstances or the evidence of [every] particular case,” Mr Maher said.
He said he was “seeking some advice” in relation to a potential appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions, and said the government would also investigate imposing stricter limits on high-powered vehicles.
“Some of the buttons … put these sorts of cars in track or sports mode that effectively turn off most, if not all, of the driver-assisting functions,” he said.
“That is something to look at as well—outside race tracks, what the need is for these sorts of functions that disable so many safety features that modern cars have.”
Opposition Leader David Speirs said he was in favor of reviewing the current laws.
“I think those laws should be given a really good look at,” he said.
“There could be an opportunity for law reform here.
“I would back the modernization of those laws in line with community consultation.”