Youth centre instead of jail for Warrnambool drink-driver


A WARRNAMBOOL man who was drunk when he lost control of a car and slammed into a tree after passengers asked him to slow down has been sentenced to 18 months in a youth detention centre.

James Allan Nicholls, 20, appealed his 18-month sentence in an adult jail in Warrnambool County Court on Thursday.

Nicholls had pleaded guilty to drink-driving, driving while disqualified and two charges of negligent driving causing serious injury in Warrnambool Magistrates Court.

The court heard on May 21, 2011, Nicholls had been at home smoking cannabis and about 4pm he began drinking beer with his friends.

Nicholls had between eight and 13 stubbies when they decided to visit three friends about 9.30pm. Judge Bill Stuart said that about 9.50pm Nicholls was driving a friend’s Holden and doing between 120km/h and 130km/h.

He said the passengers had asked Nicholls to slow down. Nicholls lost control of the car and hit a tree. It was estimated Nicholls had been doing 117km/h in a 100km/h zone. The impact had been so severe that the car was ripped into pieces and was described in the police summary as if the car exploded.

Nicholls had recorded a blood alcohol level of .196 and cannabis was found in his blood analysis.

He also had a previous conviction for drink-driving.

Judge Stuart said the two passengers suffered serious injuries but had continued to support Nicholls.

He said it was a miracle no one was killed.

Judge Stuart said Nicholls’ conduct must be condemned. Through letters tendered to the court, the judge noted Nicholls was doing everything to make up for what he had done and had shown genuine remorse.

Judge Stuart said Nicholls had excellent prospects of rehabilitation. He said Nicholls was immature for his age and there would have been serious consequences as a vulnerable young man in an adult prison.

Nicholls was sentenced to 18 months in a youth justice centre and had his driver’s licence cancelled and disqualified for four years.