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Drink driver who caused sister’s death to regain licence

A drink driver whose sister died when she crashed her car has been granted the right to get behind the wheel 14 months ahead of a court-imposed disqualification period.

Southport District Court Judge Deborah Holliday QC on Friday removed a five-year driver’s licence disqualification imposed on Candice Lee Chmieluk after the death of her younger sister, Sammy-Jo, 24, in 2016.

Chmieluk, a 35-year-old mother of young twins, was jailed for five-years – suspended after serving three months in custody – after pleading guilty in May 2018 to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death while under the influence of liquor.

Sentencing Judge David Kent QC was told Chmieluk had been drinking with her sister at a surf lifesaving club and then climbed behind the wheel of a car which she later crashed into a traffic light on the Gold Coast Highway at Palm Beach.

Chmieluk’s blood alcohol level was 0.202 – more than four times the legal limit. Her sister Sammy-Jo died instantly.

Lawyers for Chmieluk on Friday applied for a driver’s disqualification imposed by Judge Kent to be removed to allow her to travel for work and earn a sustainable income for her young family.

Chmieluk requested the return of her licence to enable her to transport her twin children – aged seven – to activities and permit her to travel for work and earn a more sustainable income for her young family, as well as benefit her mental health.

Judge Holliday, in a 10-page decision, said: “On 28 May 2018, (Chmieluk) was sentenced by his Honour Judge Kent QC for the offence of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death whilst adversely affected by an intoxicating substance.

“The sentence imposed, which was not interfered with on an Attorney-General’s appeal, was five years’ imprisonment suspended after serving three months for an operational period of five years.

“His Honour also ordered that the applicant be disqualified from driving for five years. That period ends on 28 May 2023 (in about 14 months’ time).”

Judge Holliday noted Chmieluk had a “bad traffic history” and was driving unlicensed at the time of the fatal crash.

“(Chmieluk) is extremely remorseful for the offending and expressed to the Court on sentence that she was ‘disgusted by [her] driving history and greatly ashamed by it’ … (and) appears to now recognise that having a driver’s licence is a privilege and, due to a combination of circumstances, not having a licence has negatively impacted her young children and her work,” Judge Holliday said.

“(She also) remains subject to the suspended term of imprisonment until August 2023 which will continue to act as a deterrence to offending … (and) is subject to an interlock condition on her licence … (and) will only be allowed to drive a motor vehicle fitted with an interlock device.”

Judge Holliday said the offence committed by Chmieluk was very serious, however, material provided to the court revealed the protection of the community no longer required Chmieluk be disqualified from driving.

“I am satisfied that there has been a substantial change in character and conduct following (Chmieluk’s) sentence and she has demonstrated a legitimate purpose for obtaining a driver’s licence. I am thus satisfied, on a balancing of considerations, that it is proper that the disqualification be removed with effect from 14 March 2022.”

Read the decision.

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