Driver in fatal crash near Swan Hill sentenced

A man who killed his friend in a car crash near Swan Hill in 2009 has been jailed for three years and six months, despite a prosecution submission he serve a maximum of three years.

Matthew Rowe, 25, was sentenced in the Victorian County Court sitting in Bendigo yesterday, convicted of one count of dangerous driving causing death.

Rowe was driving his mate Heath Tootell to a friend’s house in Woorinen in July 2009 when he lost control of his car.

Mr Tootell was killed instantly in the crash. Rowe was also injured and has no memory of the incident.

In handing down the sentence yesterday, Judge Lance Pilgrim said he was “flabbergasted” with Crown sentencing recommendations which differed significantly from those in a similar case earlier this month.

OPP prosecutor Peter Jones recommended a two- to three-year sentence for Rowe. 

In the case of Brandon McCraw, also charged with dangerous driving causing death, he had asked for a four- to five-year term.

Judge Pilgrim said he was not attacking Mr Jones personally but was concerned about the disparity between the two submissions.

“I was astounded when I was told by the prosecution the appropriate range was two to three years,” he said.

“That is a significant difference and you pleaded not guilty.

“I am concerned with the difference in proposed ranges, they are inconsistent.”

Judge Pilgrim jailed Rowe for three years and six months with a non-parole period of two years, the same sentence he gave McCraw.

The father of two hugged his children and emotional partner before being taken away by police.

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