Sydney driver is jailed over 11-month-old baby’s death after he crashed his car while the little boy sat in his lap
A Sydney driver who had a baby on his lap before a low-speed car crash has been jailed for at least two years and three months for the infant’s manslaughter.
‘The safety of young children is the very reason why the use of child restraint devices is mandatory,’ Judge Tanya Smith said on Thursday.
While noting Peter Rhyme Watfa still denied having the 11-month-old boy on his lap, she found it ‘hardly surprising’ the jury rejected his account that he’d been in a backseat baby capsule.
An 11-month-old baby died in a car crash where they were sat on the driver’s lap
The child was allegedly unrestrained at the time of the crash
The 44-year-old mechanic was found guilty in November of manslaughter on the basis of gross criminal negligence.
He had been making a short trip from a Lurnea pharmacy to a nearby home on February 25, 2019 when his BMW was hit by another car and the airbag activated.
The boy’s DNA was found on the airbag while a patterned wound on the right side of his face resembled that of the BMW logo attached to the front of the steering wheel.
The NSW District Court judge jailed Watfa for three years and nine months, with a non-parole period of two years and three months.
‘A strong message needs to be sent to deter others in the community who might be tempted to engage in acts the offender did in driving with a young child unrestrained.’
The infant died as a result of their sustained injured from the airbag detonation in the crash
She said it wasn’t possible to determine for how long he had driven with the baby on his lap or for what reason.
‘There was no issue at trial that it was the way in which the other vehicle was driven that caused the impact and led to the airbag being deployed,” she said.
Watfa was to be sentenced for the risk he created for the defenceless, extremely young and vulnerable child to whom he owed a duty of care.
The judge referred to reports about Watfa’s depression and PTSD symptoms relating to his unresolved grief over the baby’s death.
She accepted he suffered very serious grief “something that is likely to impact on the offender for the remainder of his life”.
But she found he had not demonstrated real remorse or acknowledgement of his wrongdoing in still denying the baby was on his lap.
He blamed the other driver, who was cleared of dangerous driving causing death after evidence the baby would not have been harmed if he was in a restraint.
That driver was sentenced for negligent driving, not on the basis he was criminally responsible for the death
Watfa’s criminal record included drug offences and six occasions of driving while disqualified and similar matters which led to him being declared a “habitual traffic offender”.
Months after the baby’s death, he committed a string of offences involving a police pursuit and driving with an illicit drug present in his system, said to have been related to his not coping.
While she deemed his prospects of rehabilitation to be guarded, the judge said it was of significance he retained the support of his estranged wife and his brother.