4 Dec 2008

Appeal judge sends killer driver to jail

3:20 pm on 4 December 2008

An Auckland drunk driver who avoided being sent to prison because of a panic disorder has now been jailed for two years.

Lesley Caudwell, of Papakura, was earlier sentenced to 12 months' home detention for causing a fatal crash in 2007, but the Solicitor-General has successfully appealed against that sentence.

Caudwell pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death after causing the crash when she was almost three times the legal blood-alcohol limit.

The crash killed Tara Groenestein, 36.

Caudwell's lawyer told a judge in July that a jail term would be disproportionately severe, because she suffers from the disorder agoraphobia, which would cause her distress in a prison cell.

But Justice Hansen this week set aside the sentence and ordered Caudwell go to prison, saying there was no evidence that her panic disorder could not be managed in jail.

Ms Groenestein's father, Felix Groenestein, says he was appalled with the initial home detention term, and is pleased with the new sentence.

Now the court case is resolved, he says the family can begin to have closure for their daughter's death.