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‘He didn’t die’: Drug driver’s shock claim

Rebekah Stewart wants her jail term reduced for seriously injuring a cyclist while she was high on ice. What happens in a criminal trial?
Rebekah Stewart wants her jail term reduced for seriously injuring a cyclist while she was high on ice. What happens in a criminal trial?

A DRUG-affected Victorian woman who crashed into a cyclist and left him for dead wants a shorter sentence because her victim didn't die.

Rebekah Stewart's lawyer argued in the Victorian Court of Appeal on Tuesday that her victim, Christian Ashby, didn't die, so her sentence should be reduced.

Stewart was affected by the drug ice when she veered on to the wrong side of the road and hit the cyclist head-on in Ballarat on Good Friday in 2016.

Mr Ashby, who had been out for a morning bike ride, slid up over the windscreen before he was left bleeding on the road.

Meanwhile, Stewart fled home to take the bonnet off her car and hide her vehicle under a tarpaulin.

Stewart was sentenced to six years' jail in April 2017 with a non-parole period of four years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury and failing to stop.

Rebekah Stewart was jailed for a minimum four years.
Rebekah Stewart was jailed for a minimum four years.

But her lawyer Richard Edney says the length of her sentence is "manifestly excessive".

"Six years and four years is more a sentence where someone has died," Mr Edney said.

Mr Ashby required 10 major operations, and now suffers chronic pain and disabilities.

Justice Mark Weinberg described Mr Ashby's injuries as "long-lasting" and "permanent", with Stewart's actions having caused "destruction of quality of life".

"Some injuries are so catastrophic from the victim's perspective that they think about whether they would have been better off dying," he said. Mr Edney said Stewart admitted to using ice the night before the crash but was not tested for substance use because of the delay between her offending and her arrest.

Ballarat cyclist Christian Ashby was hit and nearly killed by a drugged driver while riding. Picture: David Caird
Ballarat cyclist Christian Ashby was hit and nearly killed by a drugged driver while riding. Picture: David Caird

He argued the admission was a "powerful mitigating factor".

But Justice Paul Coghlan disagreed.

"The fact she was on ice aggravates the matter," he said.

"The fact she admits using ice goes in part to showing her remorse but I don't see how it could be a mitigating factor." Mr Edney also argued Stewart had rehabilitated herself, having been an in- patient at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre and covering off 34 sessions.

"She's done everything since her offending to make good."

But Justice Weinberg said it "doesn't get much worse in terms of dangerous driving" given Stewart had been high on ice, had driven on the other side of the road, was driving was disqualified and while on a suspended sentence. The court reserved its decision to be delivered at a future date.

Mr Ashby in hospital.
Mr Ashby in hospital.

Topics:  court cyclist drugs editors picks ice police

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