A Brisbane judge has ruled the “community’s demand for punishment” of a drunk driver who struck and killed a nine-year-old boy on Christmas Day in 2016 was more important than allowing him a license to drive to alleviate personal hardships.
Beenleigh District Court Judge Craig Chowdhury, in a decision published on Thursday (April 1), refused Adrian John Murray’s application for the return of his driver’s licence – saying the community’s expectation of proper and just punishment was greater than allowing Murray back on the road.
Murray, now aged 30, was handed a seven-year jail term by Judge Chowdhury after pleading guilty to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.162 – more than three times the legal driving limit – when he struck the young boy who was out viewing Christmas lights on December 25, 2016.
During his sentencing hearing on December 18, 2017, the court was told Murray had been drinking “Wild Turkey, an American bourbon’’ for much of the day and was heavily intoxicated when he and a group of friends decided to go to another address about 7km away.
Despite ordering Uber riders for his friends, Murray opted to get in his car and drive even after a friend told him “That’s a stupid idea man. You’ve had a lot to drink.’’
Judge Chowdhury ordered Murray be considered eligible for parole after serving two years in prison and ordered he be disqualified from driving absolutely
The nine-year-old boy, who Proctor has elected to identify as JS for privacy reasons, sustained serious head injuries when struck by Murray’s out of control vehicle while walking with his older brother and family friends on Rholanda Crescent at Springwood, on Brisbane’s southern outskirts, and died two days later from his injuries.
Murray was released from prison on parole on February 25, 2020, and now resides with his wife and works as a car detailer.
Under existing Queensland law any person who has their license disqualified absolutely cannot apply for its return without the permission or order of the court.
Murray, in an application filed on January 25, 2021, sought the court’s approval for the removal of his absolute disqualification.
Judge Chowdhury said Murray, in affidavits submitted to the court, sought the return of his driver licence because “he and his wife will struggle financially if his current job should finish”.
“(Murray) set out (other) personal hardships from not having a driver licence, including visiting his grandparents who are both quite elderly, assisting his mother who is in a wheelchair and visiting his sister who has Down’s Syndrome and lives in a home,’’ Judge Chowdhury said in his eight page decision.
“He would also assist his father, who has Parkinson’s disease and cannot drive long distances to visit his mother in Bundaberg.’’
Judge Chowdhury also noted Murray had undertaken various programs and received counselling while in prison and had complied with all conditions imposed upon him since being released from jail on parole after serving two years and two months of his seven-year sentence.
However, Queensland’s Commissioner of Police opposed Murray’s application on the basis of the seriousness of the offence.
“(The Commissioner) submitted that the seriousness of the original offence was at the highest level,’’ Judge Chowdhury said.
“The conduct of (Murray) and his cavalier approach … resulted in the loss of life of a young child on Christmas Day. The seriousness of the conduct was aggravated by the fact that (Murray) was over the legal alcohol limit at the time.’’
Judge Chowdhury, in refusing Murray’s application, said: “On any objective view the original offence of dangerous operation (of a vehicle) causing death whilst adversely affected by an intoxicating substance was a very serious example of that offence,’’ he said.
“(Murray) was warned by a friend that he was not in a state to drive, but he decided to do so anyway.
“The consequences of that decision were catastrophic… (and) the decision to disqualify him from holding or obtaining a driver licence absolutely was not made lightly.’’
Judge Chowdhury noted Murray had made commendable efforts at rehabilitation by “being a model prisoner while in custody, and being a model parolee”.
“(Murray) has employment at the moment, although the hours he works varies according to customer demand. There is no question there is a major social inconvenience to (Murray) and his wife. I also accept that (Murray’s) financial position would be significantly improved if he were able to resume his employment as a carpenter.
“However, I agree with the submission of (Queensland’s Commissioner for Police) that there has been an insufficient deprivation of the ability to drive to satisfy the community’s demand for punishment in this case, even taking into account the period of license suspension between charge and sentence.
“In my view, at least a further year of disqualification would be the minimum period to satisfy the community’s demand for punishment. In all the circumstances I am not satisfied that (Murray) has met his onus in establishing that the absolute disqualification should be removed at this point.
“The application is refused.”