Sentencing Act 2002 – manslaughter – sentencing – minimum period of imprisonment – driving offences – excess breath alcohol – driving causing death – s 27 report – disqualification from driving
R v Tiddy  NZHC 2288 per Dunningham J.
Brent Tiddy appeared at the Dunedin High Court, having pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter causing the death of Katherine Broad.
Tiddy had several driving convictions, including driving with excess blood alcohol. The offending for which Dunningham J sentenced him, similarly involved driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Broad was the passenger in the vehicle that Tiddy drove on the night of the offending. He reached a top speed of 158km/h. He was seen driving erratically and at high speeds before losing control of the vehicle and hitting a road sign. The vehicle then rolled before hitting a tree. Neither Tiddy nor Broad was wearing a seatbelt. The victim suffered catastrophic head injuries. She was killed instantly.
The crash analysis report showed the crash was likely caused by excessive speed, inappropriate braking, or a combination of both, on a road with a changing gradient and loose seal. This resulted in oversteering, from which the defendant could not recover.
Analysis of his blood alcohol levels showed Tiddy was in excess of the legal limit, having a reading of 141mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. It also showed use of tetrahydrocannabinol, an active ingredient in cannabis.
A pre-sentence report gave insight to Tiddy’s difficult upbringing, which frequently involved violence, drugs and alcohol. He was assessed as having a high risk of reoffending, particularly as his offending had continued after he was deported from Australia in 2017. Tiddy was diagnosed with ADHD at age five and bipolar disorder at age nine.
During sentencing, Dunningham J took into account that Tiddy had consumed alcohol and was well over the legal driving limit, had consumed cannabis, had no driver’s licence and had been expressly prohibited from driving, his driving was aggressive and reckless, and that neither he nor his passenger was wearing a seatbelt. The judge decided on a starting point of six-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
At the time of the offending, Tiddy had been convicted of operating a motor vehicle causing sustained loss of traction, operating a vehicle carelessly, and failing to stop when followed by police. He also had a conviction for driving with excess breath alcohol. Tiddy was on bail at the time of the current offending and was in breach of his curfew conditions. The judge considered an uplift of 10% was appropriate.
Tiddy was then given a 25% discount for early guilty plea, 5% for remorse and participation in restorative justice, and 10% for background and cultural circumstances. The end sentence was four years and six months.
Dunningham J then had to consider the minimum period of imprisonment (MPI) and whether it needed to be imposed. An MPI is imposed only if the judge considered the statutory eligibility date for parole to be insufficient in relation to the harm caused or it was necessary to denounce and deter the conduct and to protect the community. It was decided Tiddy’s offending warranted an MPI.
Applicable principles: MPI – statutory requirements – Sentencing Act 2002, s 86 – Parole Act 2002, s 84(1) – accountability – denunciation and deterrence – protection of the community.
Held: Tiddy was sentenced to four years and six months’ imprisonment with an MPI of two years. He was also disqualified from driving for five years, commencing from the day he is released from custody.