Travesties of justice aren’t exclusive to the United Kingdom.
Elvira Sacirovic couldn’t bear going to court for the sentencing of a P-plater who killed her father while drag racing, out of fear he would walk free – and he did. Raymond Grech, 26, was given a wholly suspended sentence of 18 months in the Victorian County Court for killing 78-year-old Mehmed Bajric.
He and two other drivers had sped off from an intersection in the western Melbourne suburb of Cairnlea on March 6, 2008, and had been weaving in and out of traffic before Grech hit Mr Bajric, a Bosnian refugee, as he was leaving a mosque. Another of the drag-racing drivers then ran over Mr Bajric and dragged him for some distance. Eyewitnesses estimated Grech was travelling between 90km/h and 100km/h in the 80km/h zone and several witnesses said the cars had appeared to be racing each other.
Grech’s probationary licence had been suspended at the time for three speeding offences and he was allegedly driving an unroadworthy car, the court heard. He had also been caught speeding once more since the fatal incident.
Mrs Sacirovic said she could not bear to attend the sentencing on Friday, having suspected Grech would walk free. “I was thinking that he was going to walk free, because they said, `He’s a good man,'” Mrs Sacirovic told AAP from her Cairnlea home. “To me, he is not a good man. He was drag racing. He didn’t have a driving licence and after he killed my father, he was speeding again. What’s going to stop him doing it again? He kills a man and he walked free – where is the justice there? What kind of message does it send to other people who want to speed?”
Mrs Sacirovic remembered the grandfather of eight, who had lived with her family, as a man dedicated to his family and his faith. “He was a very, very good man, a very quiet man, very generous and very understanding,” she said. She expressed the pain of discovering for the first time during court proceedings that her father had been run over and dragged, something police had never explained to her, she said.
Grech, of Rockbank, pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing death. The court heard Grech had felt profound sorrow and guilt for Mr Bajric’s family. In sentencing, Judge John Smallwood said he took into account Grech’s undertaking to give evidence against a co-accused, and lengthy delays in the case, as well as his early guilty plea, remorse and strong prospects of rehabilitation. He was sentenced to 18 months’ jail, wholly suspended for two years, and is disqualified from obtaining a driver’s licence for 18 months.
The judge said he had to balance the fact that Grech was a young person of good character who, while driving like a hoon, had not been intoxicated. “That has to be balanced against the fact that you took a very worthwhile life,” he said.”I just don’t think young people in your situation understand the grief and the distress and the heartache that driving like that causes to people.”
Grech wasn’t intoxicated. Good for him. This ‘achievement’ on his part has to be balanced against the fact he took a life.
Still, I’m not quite sure how the ‘good character’ aspect of his personality corresponds with his repeated speeding offences, killing a man while racing an unroadworthy car and while disqualified from driving.
And then being caught speeding again, shortly after killing someone.
The way a person behaves behind the wheel evidently has no bearing on an assessment of his or her moral qualities, something I have remarked on recently with regard to another case, this time from the UK, in which the ‘good character’ of a driver with a prior speeding conviction who killed a cyclist was invoked in mitigation.