A family grieving over the loss of their daughter in a car accident at Mount Cook last year has forgiven the young driver responsible, saying they do not want to see her become a life-long victim.
Kimberly Devo, 21, was sentenced in the Blenheim District Court yesterday for causing the crash that killed Rebecca Townshend, who was 18, and badly injured another young woman.
Defence lawyer Kent Arnott said the bond forged by the families during the restorative justice process was unusual but had helped all of them.
Devo, herself badly injured in the crash, sat through most of yesterday's sentencing. She was supported by family, while friends of the victim were also in court, some of whom were visibly upset when details of the crash and the injuries were read out.
Mr Arnott said the three had all been close, and worked together at Mount Cook.
"They were enjoying life and enjoying the freedom of their youth.
"Unfortunately this crash has changed everything - one of them has been killed and the other two will have long-term physical injuries and emotional trauma as a result," he said.
The court was told Devo had been condemned to a life knowing she was responsible for the death of a friend.
Judge Mark Callaghan said Rebecca Townshend's parents did not want Devo's life ruined as well.
"Despite the heartache and sorrow they are experiencing they want you to continue as being a worthwhile citizen," he told Devo in sentencing.
The court was told the the families accepted all three young women made a choice that night to get in the car, when any of them could have chosen not to. Devo did not have a licence because getting one was "too much of a hassle". That night they had shared three jugs of cider after work and then went off for a drive.
Devo was later found to have a blood alcohol reading below the legal limit, which prevented police laying a more serious charge, Mr Arnott said.
Devo lost control of the car on a bend in the road she was travelling too fast for.
"All three girls got into the car that night in circumstances where they shouldn't have. All three took risks and all three paid the price for their actions.
"It could have easily been the other way around - Rebecca could have survived and Miss Devo the one killed. That was acknowledged at the restorative justice meeting by all concerned," Mr Arnott said.
Rebecca Townshend died at the scene of the crash as a result of severe head and spinal injuries.
Devo, with a broken back and head injuries, walked to find cell phone coverage to get help for the other passenger who was lying badly injured.
Judge Callaghan said the actions no doubt saved the 19-year-old's life, and it was a factor in reducing her sentence from a possible prison term.
Devo was given five months community detention on two charges of aggravated careless driving while under the influence. The judge said the families, although devastated by an event that had ruined their lives, did not want a harsh penalty.
"They have no hostility towards you - you took full responsibility at that meeting - they don't want any emotional harm payments from you and they do not want to see you in prison," he said.
Rebecca Townshend's family was not in court, but said through Mr Arnott they wanted to ensure their daughter had a voice yesterday.
"The families believe Miss Devo has suffered enough from this ordeal. Furthermore, nothing we say or do here today will change what has happened, or bring Rebecca back," he said.
Devo was also sentenced to 12 months supervision, and was disqualified from driving for 18 months.