Normally I play Devil’s Advocate with the legal profession. I understand that the crime does not have a cookie cutter nature and that juries and judges, both of whom have access to more information than the rest of us reading newspaper reports, may make decisions we can’t easily understand or accept. I understand that the system is designed to allow guilty people every chance to slip through the cracks and that this is a necessary consequence of the highly desirable feature that few innocents, ideally none, are jailed by mistake. And I understand that an essential part of this is that prosecution cases must be more or less destruct tested, which in turn means defence counsels who are willing to say practically anything to help their client.
Practically anything, because I don’t think they do anyone a service by stretching credibility beyond a certain point. I have a ‘for instance’ here, but first some background:
Three of the children were seriously injured in the crash when Tanya Chilly lost control of the Mitsubishi Pajero and the car rolled.
‘Three of the children’? If you’re thinking that implies there were more than three children in the car you’d be right. In fact there were ten. And if you’re thinking that a Pajero is a Mitsi Shogun by another name and doesn’t have enough seats for driver plus ten you’d be right about that too. The kids were apparently sharing four seats between them, perhaps made easier by the fact that they ranged in age from 1 to 10 years old.
Chilly, a mother of seven, pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today to three counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury, nine counts of failing to ensure a child was restrained in the car…
Oh yes, I nearly forgot to mention that she only put a seat belt on one of them.
…one count of driving unlicensed…
A possible reason for which will soon become clear.
…and one count of drink driving.
A nice little baker’s dozen of driving offences then.
Chilly, 35, of Epping, had a blood alcohol level of .233 – more than four times the legal limit – when she crashed in Rockbank about 5pm on August 5 last year.
It was her fourth drink driving conviction.
It’s not actually stated anywhere in the article but I’m guessing the other drink driving convictions might be the reason her licence was suspended at the time.
[Prosecutor Ray Gibson] said Chilly swerved to avoid potholes on the dirt road when the car flipped on to the driver’s side roof.
One child suffered a broken leg in the crash, another had internal chest injuries and a third had a broken arm.
Mr Gibson said Chilly had been drinking beer and sharing a one-litre bottle of Jim Beam with the father of her seven children in a paddock, where the man lived, before driving off to get some takeaway food.
The three other children in the car also belonged to Chilly’s partner. He had eight children with his now estranged-wife.
When later interviewed by police, Chilly said the children were “just all over the place in the car”.
She admitted putting the children’s lives at risk when driving back to the paddock and was sorry for what had happened.
Okay, but this post is not so much about Chilly and her actions as about what her lawyer said. So has everyone absorbed all that background, particularly the last bit about sitting in a paddock getting plastered? Good, then feast your minds on this:
Defence lawyer Jill Prior said Chilly’s decision to drive had been “the lesser of two evils”.
Remember what I said about stretching credibility? Jeez, that’s stretching it so far that when it’s let go the bugger’s going to snap back hard enough to take someone’s face off. And in case you’re wondering how Ms Prior works that out…
It was a decision “contrary to her motherly duties” but the children were hungry and complaining and she didn’t want to leave them with her partner and his brother who were both blind drunk.
“It’s not an easy scenario to digest by any stretch of the imagination,” Ms Prior said.
Chilly was terrified of leaving the children with the two drunk men, she said.
Which was followed by some stuff about her client being an alcoholic and having suffered through a 12 year long abusive relationship, but is now turning things around and has been sober for the last few months. I can almost hear the Ambush Predator’s knuckles cracking from here – sorry, Julia, I know this kind of thing presses your lawyer rage button – but even though this kind of thing is pretty well worn in courts all over the western world I’m not actually going to make anything of it. For all I know it could be the honest truth and in any case her job is to keep her client out of jail, and if any of us law abiding types are ever on trial for something we didn’t do we’d want our lawyers doing exactly the same thing. But the ‘lesser of two evils’ part? That raises a couple of questions I’d like to have seen put to Ms Prior.
Wouldn’t an even lesser evil have been to get the kids some food sorted out earlier on before everyone got pissed, and wouldn’t that have avoided having to pile 11 people into a car with seats for about half that, drunk or sober, in the first place?