A drunk-driver who killed a 16-year-old girl when she crashed into a pole at high speed with eight passengers crammed into her car has been jailed for at least five years.
Emily Toulson, 24, was more than twice the blood-alcohol limit when she took a bend at high speed, clipped two cars coming in the opposite direction and slammed into a pole at Mount Evelyn, east of Melbourne, in October 2015.
Amber Beard, 16, was sitting on her brother’s lap in the front passenger seat of the sedan and was killed in the crash. Five other passengers were seriously injured.
Toulson also suffered serious injuries, including an acquired brain injury.
She pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing death and five counts of negligently causing serious injury.
In sentencing, County Court Judge Michael O’Connell said it was difficult to overstate the seriousness of her offending.
“You were grossly affected by alcohol, you’d been told not to drive, your car keys had been taken from you but you demanded them back, you then drove dangerously and at excessive speed … you ignored requests to slow down,” he said.
‘My baby didn’t come home’
The court heard Toulson had been binge drinking with friends on the day of the crash.
Her boyfriend had taken her car keys off her but a friend later gave them back.
In the minutes before the crash, two of Toulson’s passengers asked her to slow down, concerned she was tailgating other cars, speeding and overtaking dangerously.
Her teenage victim’s mother earlier told the court she would never get over her daughter’s death.
“We didn’t have much but what we had was each other,” she said.
“All that changed on the sixth of October 2015, when my baby didn’t come home.”
Binge-drinking to cope with depression
The court heard Toulson’s personal life had deteriorated in the months leading up to the crash.
She had depression and had lost custody of her young children, who were living with her mother.
The court heard Toulson had begun binge drinking as a way of coping.
Outside court, her sister, Charlotte Pritchett, said she hoped the case would raise awareness about the tragic consequences of drink-driving.
“She never set out to harm anyone let alone have somebody lose their life,” she said.
Emily herself suffered severe and life-threatening injuries … one of which was a severe brain injury We weren’t the one who lost a loved one but … we came very close and we lost the Emily we all knew.”
Judge O’Connell said Toulson was deeply remorseful and her offending was out of character.
The court was told she would live permanently with impaired mental function.
Toulson was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison, but will be eligible for parole in five years.