A 66-year-old Stawell woman has been sentenced to a four-year community corrections order over the “immensely tragic event” that caused the deaths of four women in Victoria’s west in 2018.
Lorraine Nicholson drove her car through an intersection near Navarre, outside of St Arnaud, hitting another vehicle driven by Hamilton woman Elaine Middleton, 75, on the evening of May 5, 2018.
Ms Middleton, 75, Heywood woman Dianne Barr, 64, Portland woman Claudia Jackson, 71, and Hamilton woman Margaret Ely, 74, were returning from a line-dancing afternoon at St Arnaud.
All four were killed in the crash.
This morning, Ms Nicholson pleaded guilty to four charges of dangerous driving causing death in the County Court sitting in Ballarat.
“I have found this an extremely difficult and moving case,” Judge Michael Bourke told the court via videolink.
Ms Nicholson must do 500 hours of unpaid community work and her driver’s licence has been cancelled for eight years.
Accused’s ‘exemplary good character’ taken into account
Judge Bourke told Ms Nicholson that he took into account her “exemplary good character”, despite there still being no explanation for what happened.
“You are genuinely and highly remorseful,” he said.
During the trial, Judge Bourke inspected four cards Ms Nicholson keeps in her purse, each with the name of one of the dead women.
The cards had details about the women’s lives, including the names of children and grandchildren.
During sentencing, the judge referred to the cards which she “used to commemorate and reflect upon the four deceased victims and their families”.
“The Victim Impact Statements present a picture of the four women who led fine lives, contributing in a lasting way to their families and their communities,” he said.
The court had heard Ms Nicholson drove her 4WD through a stop sign at more than 90 kilometres per hour at dusk.
Prosecutors said she passed a number of 80kph signs, as well as a reduce speed sign.
In her police statement, the court heard she said just before the crash she turned on her wipers to clean a grimy windscreen.
She thought she put her foot on the brake, but the car took off instead, the court heard.