The loved ones of young father Jonathan Pinchbeck, who was killed when he was struck by a vehicle in a Kangaroo Flat car park on Christmas Eve three years ago, have spoken of the devastation the loss of the fun-loving, kind-hearted and generous man has wreaked on their lives.
The person responsible for his death, 31-year-old Jonathan Lumber, was sentenced in the County Court in Bendigo on Monday to a four-year community corrections order with 300 hours of unpaid community work after pleading guilty in October to dangerous driving causing death.
Judge Gerard Mullaly said the three-year delay in reaching a resolution was too long.
He said it was partly the result of overstretched police, and called for more police resources.
There were also delays in the legal system, he said, and slammed Lumber’s first set of solicitors as having “let everyone down”.
Mr Pinchbeck, 25, had a 10-month-old son and was awaiting the birth of his second child when the incident occurred on Christmas Eve, 2015.
He was standing with two friends in the car park of his workplace when Lumber drove his four-wheel-drive towards the group and lost control.
He swerved but struck Mr Pinchbeck, who was thrown into the air and hit his head on the ground.
Mr Pinchbeck was taken to Bendigo Health, but could not be revived.
One of the other men was clipped by vehicle.
Prosecutor Anne Hassan said Lumber’s vehicle was heavily modified: it was fitted with a more powerful V8 engine than standard for the model, meaning a light application of the accelerator pedal led to more powerful acceleration.
She said Lumber was aware of the effects of his vehicle’s modifications, including the sensitive throttle and increased acceleration.
A forensic mechanic found no defects with the vehicle, Ms Hassan said, and it was estimated the vehicle was travelling almost 38 km/h when it hit Mr Pinchbeck.
Ms Hassan said the speed was too fast for the confined space of the car park.
Many of Mr Pinchbeck’s friends and family members were in court yesterday for the emotional hearing, including his young widow.
Eight people prepared victim impact statements, four of which were delivered in court.
His sister Ashleigh Pinchbeck spoke through tears of the loss of her big brother, which she said had “forced me to live a life I don’t recognise and become a person I don’t know”.
Ms Pinchbeck said she and her brother, born just 16 months apart, were very close, describing him as her best friend, her confidante and her protector.
His young son talks about his “daddy”, she said, and she mourned the fact Mr Pinchbeck missed the birth of his daughter.
Ms Pinchbeck also spoke of the profound impact her brother’s death had on her mother and her two younger siblings.
Related: Tributes flow for young father
Mr Pinchbeck’s mother Teresa Greenwood described her son as cheeky and fun-loving, a person with a “heart of gold” who was the rock of his family.
Among his final words to her the day he died were, “I’ll be back soon”, but instead, she later watched as medical staff frantically worked to save his life in the hospital.
“No parent should ever say goodbye to their child,” Ms Greenwood said.
She described Mr Pinchbeck’s death as the loss of a piece of the family puzzle that could never be replaced.
“He should be here with us all, watching his babies grow and turn into the amazing little people they are,” Ms Greenwood said.
His aunt, Melissa Seelenmeyer, said Mr Pinchbeck was “the joker, the carer, the helper, the fierce protector” of anyone he considered family.
Ms Seelenmeyer said her nephew, born when she was 14 years old, was more like a brother to her.
“There’s a hole in my heart, knowing a key part of my life is gone,” she said.
A victim impact statement written by Mr Pinchbeck’s grandmother Kay Greenwood was read to the court by Ms Hassan.
Ms Greenwood said her grandson – her first grandchild – meant the world, and she missed his cuddles and his words of love.
Mr Pinchbeck had been looking forward to Christmas and his son’s first birthday before he died, she said, telling the court his son was a miniature version of him.
Before sentencing, Ms Hassan reiterated the prosecution’s position that Lumber’s offending warranted an immediate term of imprisonment.
This was because of the circumstances in which he was driving a heavily modified vehicle, she said, was driving too quickly, had seen Mr Pinchbeck and his friends, and knew the effects of the modifications to his vehicle.
Lumber’s defence counsel Paul Smallwood said his client was aware of the trauma that had resulted, and often thought of Mr Pinchbeck’s family and friends.
“He is extremely distressed by Mr Pinchbeck’s passing,” Mr Smallwood said.
“His distress was apparent immediately after the collision and it remained apparent to those who speak to Mr Lumber about what happened.”
He said the character references provided for Lumber spoke of “a good man with a kind heart who is utterly devastated about what has occurred”.
Lumber’s guilty plea demonstrated acceptance of responsibility, Mr Smallwood said, and he had no prior convictions, no subsequent convictions, and no charges pending.
He said his client had “excellent” prospects of rehabilitation.
In sentencing, Judge Gerard Mullaly noted Mr Pinchbeck was a much-loved young man, and had only been at his workplace to help a friend fit tyres to his vehicle to ensure he enjoyed the Christmas holiday safely.
He said Lumber and Mr Pinchbeck knew and liked one another, and took four-wheel driving trips together.
Lumber was not skylarking when the fatal crash occurred, Judge Mullaly said, but driving forward to speak to friends.
Judge Mullaly explained moral culpability was a critical factor in sentencing, and noted Lumber did not intend for a crash to occur and the dangerous driving was “very brief”.
Importantly, he said, Lumber had not been in trouble with the law before or since.
Judge Mullaly said there was solid evidence of Lumber’s deep remorse over what occurred, reading from character references that described how he struggled to come to terms with what had happened.
Before delivering his decision, Judge Mullaly said the sentence was not a measure of the late man’s life.
“No penalty can adequately capture all the heartbreak, nor the fine qualities of Mr Pinchbeck,” he said.
As well as completing 300 hours of community work during the four-year community corrections order, Lumber will be under supervision, and is disqualified from driving for 18 months.
He will also have to submit a DNA sample to police.
If it were not for Lumber’s guilty plea, Judge Mullaly said he would have been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 18 months.
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