Home Vehicle Accidents Man responsible for crash that killed Sue Salthouse freed from jail over unrelated drug driving, traffic offences

Man responsible for crash that killed Sue Salthouse freed from jail over unrelated drug driving, traffic offences

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The man responsible for the crash which killed disability campaigner Sue Salthouse has been freed from jail, after being caught driving with ice in his system for a second time.

Mitchell Laidlaw, 34, was to have been sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court over the fatal crash last week, but that was delayed when it emerged he had been remanded in custody on drug driving and other traffic offences. 

Laidlaw had also returned a positive drug test for ice immediately after he collided with Ms Salthouse’s wheelchair accessible motorbike. 

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to the more recent offences.

Drug test results a ‘consistent frustration’ for the courts

Sue Salthouse, disability advocate and 2020 ACT Citizen of the Year, died aged 71.(Supplied: NADC, Salty Dingo)

Laidlaw’s lawyer Keegan Lee told the court Laidlaw had been going through a difficult time in the lead up to the crash with Ms Salthouse, and his life had spiralled downwards since, including his family being evicted from their home and his loss of work.

Mr Lee also told the court it was not evident whether the drug had impacted Laidlaw’s driving when he was arrested earlier this month.

“This is an offence where we do not know what the level is,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to assess the risk.”

Magistrate Louise Taylor agreed, taking aim at the law about the presence of drugs for drivers who are tested.

“It’s a consistent frustration… the court is dealing with mere presence… we are not given any information about how much is in their system,” she said.

But she noted Laidlaw should have known there was a risk of being caught, given he was facing sentencing over the earlier accident.

“He was a person on notice about that,” Magistrate Taylor said.

Prosecutor Sam Bargwanna told the court context was everything, and imprisonment was appropriate for the crime.

But Mr Lee told the court the 10 days in jail had been a short, sharp punishment for Laidlaw.

“It has served as a wakeup call,” he said.

“It has had the element of punishment.

Magistrate Taylor imposed a 12-month good behaviour order on Laidlaw for the drug offences and fines and a second good behaviour order for the other traffic offences, releasing him from jail today.

The sentence has cleared the way for the Supreme Court to consider a Drug and Alcohol Order for Laidlaw over the fatal crash.

The case is expected to be back in court later this month.

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