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Bicycle rider killer gets Jail

The Age

Adam Cooper

September 13 2016,

A woman who killed a cyclist when she crashed her car into the back of him and then fled the scene has been jailed for 11 years.

County Court judge David Parsons said Stephanie Maher's actions were "morally reprehensible" when, on the night of November 26, 2013, she hit cyclist Julian Paul on a stretch of Nepean Highway in Brighton East and then drove away.

Jailing Stephanie Maher for 11 years, Judge David Parson said her actions were "morally reprehensible"** Jailing Stephanie Maher for 11 years, Judge David Parson said her actions were "morally reprehensible"** Photo: Justin McManus

"Your purpose in leaving was to avoid detection by police or authorities and hopefully avoid taking responsibility," Judge Parsons said on Tuesday.

Mr Paul, 54 and a father of two daughters, was a keen cyclist who was safety conscious and was wearing a high-visibility cycling top, and had lights and illuminated tape on his bike.

Julian Paul died from spinal and head injuries.
Julian Paul died from spinal and head injuries. 

He suffered critical injuries and died about three weeks later.

Maher, 33, a former nurse who previously stole drugs from a hospital she once worked at and from a critically ill patient, was in June found guilty of culpable driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to render assistance

She had pleaded not guilty.

Her trial was told she was seen driving erratically along Nepean Highway in the moments before the crash, and was seen by one motorist with her head titled down as if she was asleep, and at one point with her eyes closed.

Prosecutors could not say where Maher had been in the two hours before the crash, but argued she ought to have known she was fatigued and not fit to be driving.

She had her son, then aged two, in the car when she hit Mr Paul.

She told police she did not know she had hit Mr Paul, and thought a rock had shattered her windscreen.

She claimed she abandoned her car and walked home over a concern her brother – who lived in the same block of units and had mental-health problems – would see her car.

Judge Parsons said Maher would have known full well she had hit Mr Paul, and that he rejected her explanation as untruthful.

She must serve 8½ years in jail before being eligible for parole.

Maher cried in the dock when Judge Parsons spoke how her son would now have to live with her mother, and then sobbed after the sentence had been imposed.

"There is no evidence of remorse. There is a significant amount of self-pity and for your son's predicament," Judge Parsons told Maher.

"I see no evidence of taking responsibility for the death of Mr Paul."

The court heard Maher had told counsellors she maintained she did not know she had hit Mr Paul, was not experiencing fatigue on the night, and did not accept the accounts of drivers who saw her swerving across the road.

Judge Parsons said Maher's criminal history – which include a string of driving offences, convictions for assault, theft and deception offences – and her history of drug use meant her prospects for rehabilitation were limited.

During the sentence, Judge Parsons paused for a moment and appeared to become emotional when he made reference to impact of Mr Paul's death on his family.

The judge said the words of Janine Paul, Mr Paul's wife, would stay with anyone who heard them for a long time.

The matter will return to court later on Tuesday so the judge can determine how long Maher's driving licence would be cancelled for.