Driver avoids jail for friend’s death

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Steven James Ayres was handed a two-year suspended jail term
Camera IconSteven James Ayres was handed a two-year suspended jail term

The mother of a 23-year-old Boddington man killed when he fell from the back of a ute being driven by a close mate has forgiven the driver less than four months on and urged the court to spare him from jail.

Jesse Crossman died from fatal head injuries when he fell from the back of the Nissan Navara ute being driven by 32-year-old friend Steven James Ayres in April this year. Mr Ayres pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death in Albany District Court on Monday where he avoided an immediate prison term for allowing Mr Crossman to ride in the back of his Nissan Navara ute.

The court was told both men had been drinking together for three hours when they left a Boddington pub at midnight and Mr Crossman jumped in the tray of the ute after Mr Ayres had initially told him to sit in the cab with him.

Mr Ayres drove only 285m up Bannister Road and turned right, a 45 degree corner at Farmers Avenue when Mr Crossman fell from the ute and hit his head.

Mr Ayres did not realise his mate had fallen but eventually turned around 400m later and returned to assist as paramedics arrived.

Mr Crossman died later in Boddington Hospital. His blood alcohol reading was 0.088 per cent. State prosecutor James Newton-Palmer told the court Mr Ayres blew a blood alcohol reading of 0.109 per cent and not only allowed his friend to ride in the back of the ute but failed to slow down below 50km/h around the corner.

Mr Newton-Palmer called for an immediate prison term to reflect the seriousness of the offence and for general deterrence.

Defence lawyer Seamus Rafferty said his client was being sentenced on the “fateful decision” to drive and allowing his friend to ride in the tray, not his manner of driving at the corner.

Mr Rafferty said his client had an “unblemished character” and was a highly respected volunteer firefighter and footballer at Boddington Football Club and worked on the Boddington Gold Mine.

“He went back to the scene and provided as much assistance as he could while his friend lay dying on the side of the road,” he said.

“In some way he has lost his balance and that will always be unknown.”

Mr Rafferty said the victim impact statement from Mr Crossman’s mother Kate Harris was “highly emotive”.

“The Crossman family is a very forgiving family,” he said.

“She does not want him to go into custody as it serves no purpose.”

Mr Rafferty urged Judge Bruce Goetze to suspend any prison term due to his client’s remorse, early guilty plea, non-existent risk of re-offending, no criminal record, outstanding character and his admission on the night to police.

Judge Goetze said it could not be determined how Mr Crossman fell or if he was holding on to the roll bar of the ute.

“Yes there was alcohol but there is no evidence that contributed to dangerous driving,” he said.

“The danger was he was in the ute and there is no evidence you took the corner too sharply or were speeding.”

Judge Goetze jailed Mr Ayres for two years, suspended for two years and disqualified his licence for two years.

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