NOT MY FAULT: Driver pleads not guilty to causing crash that killed his mother

Joshua Smith has pleaded not guilty to the crash that killed his mother.
Joshua Smith has pleaded not guilty to the crash that killed his mother.

A YARRAWONGA man has pleaded not guilty to causing the car crash that killed his mother.

Joshua Michael Smith, 37, returned to Wangaratta Magistrates Court yesterday for the resumption of his committal hearing before Magistrate John Murphy.

Smith was committed to stand trial on charges of culpable driving, dangerous driving causing death and reckless conduct.

The conclusion of the committal hearing came before Smith was sentenced to a suspended jail term for an unrelated matter of breaching an intervention order three times.

He had sent messages to friends of his ex-partner claiming she had “blood on her hands” over the death of his mother, Laraine Smith.

Smith was behind the wheel when the car in which he and his mother, 67, were travelling crashed into a tree at the Murray Valley Highway-Woods Road intersection at Yarrawonga on April 23 last year.

Mrs Smith died instantly.

During three days of evidence presented in March, the prosecution alleged Smith was speeding and zig-zagging to overtake other cars in the moments leading up to the crash.

Yesterday Smith entered “not guilty” pleas to all charges and was ordered to appear at Wodonga County Court on October 10 for a directions hearing.

After the matter concluded, Smith remained in the Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to three counts of breaching an intervention order.

The court was told Smith sent Facebook messages to friends of his ex-partner in May last year. 

In them he called her abusive names and blamed her for his depressive breakdown.

That was followed by two other messages to his former girlfriend’s new partner on June 3 and 4 this year, in which he claimed his mother was in the car the day of the crash because “she didn’t want to leave me alone ... in case I ripped your heads off”.

“You ... f---ed with the wrong family,” the message read.

“I’ll be keeping my promise to my mum.”

Smith’s defence barrister Scott Johns said his client was still recovering from the physical, psychological and emotional effects of the crash.

“Due to his cognitive functioning at the time ... and the loss of his mother, his moral culpability was reduced,” Mr Johns said.

“He’s just trying to get through each day and deal with his grief.”

He said Smith had a new partner, who accompanied him to court yesterday.

Smith had battled alcohol addiction for many years but had not had a drink since the crash.

Mr Murphy sentenced Smith to three months jail, wholly suspended for two years.

“The best way you can honour your mum is to keep out of trouble,” he said.