Northland man jailed for drink-driving causing death

A fifth-time drink-driver who caused the death of a young newly wed when his ute crossed the centre line and collided with her car has been jailed for two years and three months.

Palwinder Kaur suffered catastrophic injuries and died in a rescue helicopter en route to hospital after a ute being driven by Timothy O’Donoghue, 62, crossed the centre line and collided head-on with her car at the intersection of State Highways 12 and 1, at Brynderwyn, near Maungatūroto.

The crash happened about 11.20pm on June 22 last year.

O’Donoghue previously pleaded guilty to driving with excess blood alcohol (175mg) for a third or subsequent time.

In the Whangarei District Court yesterday, Judge Taryn Bayley ordered him to pay reparation of $20k to Kaur’s husband of a year, Harmeet Singh. Of it, $10k was for costs Singh incurred in repatriating his wife’s body to her family in India and $10k for emotional harm.

O’Donoghue was disqualified from driving for four years and will then be subject to alcohol interlock and zero-alcohol licence provisions.

The prison sentence included a 25 per cent discount for O’Donoghue’s early guilty plea and 10 per cent discount for remorse.

O’Donoghue’s lawyer Wayne McKeane read a letter written by O’Donoghue expressing what he wanted to tell the victim’s family had they agreed to meet him at restorative justice.

O’Donoghue said no words could express his sorrow for what he had done. He could not ask for forgiveness as he could not forgive himself for the loss of a daughter, a wife and “especially a mother”.

Not a day that passed when he did not think of the family and their loss “especially the children who would go through life without their mother”, he said.

But Singh told NZME he and his wife did not have any children – either together or to any previous relationships. He did not understand why O’Donoghue said what he did.

Singh said he was pleased O’Donoghue was jailed. He would have liked it to have been longer but accepted the court’s decision.

Kaur’s vehicle was forced off the road during the collision. The front of it was severely damaged as it ploughed into a fence and tree.

O’Donoghue’s vehicle rolled, with him initially trapped inside. He was taken to Whangārei Hospital where he returned a positive blood-alcohol test.

McKeane said the end sentence could come within the two-year threshold for conversion to a community-based option such as home detention. The court could get there by imposing further discount for otherwise good character, McKeane said.

He pointed to O’Donoghue’s 40-year marriage and stable employment history as a senior staff member at a dairy company where he worked for 25 years.

McKeane said O’Donoghue’s offending was usually triggered by an event in his life – this time a friend’s suicide a year earlier.

But Judge Bayley refused to give the additional discount saying O’Donoghue’s character was offset by his relevant prior convictions which, in her view, showed a pattern of continued drink-driving between 1980 and 2007.

O’Donoghue was fined, given community work, disqualified for lengthy periods, and given warnings but it had not changed his thinking or poor decisions around drink-driving.

Singh, in a victim statement he read aloud to the court at the outset of the hearing, described the enormous impact of his wife’s death on him and their families.

Every day was a struggle and he would never fully recover from the loss of her in these circumstances, Singh said. He would not have coped without the help of family and friends, he said.

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