No jail, just community service for man's death

THE driver involved in a head-on collision which claimed the life of a Grafton man has avoided jail time after he was sentenced for the fatal crash this week.

Mitchell Jackwitz, from Ipswich, west of Brisbane, appeared in Coffs Harbour Local Court on Monday after the 21-year-old entered a guilty plea to negligent driving causing death for the 2017 crash which killed 44-year-old Grafton man Matthew Benson.

According to agreed facts, around 4.15am on August 26, 2017, Jackwitz, who was on his green P-plates at the time, and his girlfriend left Ipswich to visit Jackwitz's grandfather at Kempsey.

Around 7.53am, Jackwitz was driving south on the Pacific Highway at Cowper when he failed to negotiate a slight left-hand bend and drove across the centre line and collided with Mr Benson's silver Ford Falcon that was travelling north.

Mr Benson suffered multiple and significant injuries and was declared dead at the scene.

BELOVED: Grafton man Matthew Benson died at the scene of a crash at Cowper on the weekend.
BELOVED: Grafton man Matthew Benson died at the scene of a crash at Cowper on the weekend. Contributed

Forensic investigation confirmed the collision took place within Mr Benson's lane of travel, and a witness driving behind Mr Benson said Jackwitz's vehicle gradually veered into the northbound lane.

Further investigations from the vehicle Jackwitz was driving, which belonged to his girlfriend, found Jackwitz did not brake or swerve in the 70 milliseconds before the collision. Jackwitz's mobile phone was also analysed and showed no signs of use at a time close to the collision.

The vehicle Jackwitz was driving was found to have no mechanical faults, and the Airbag Control Module that police extracted data from revealed in the 2.5 seconds prior to collision was travelling at about 96km/h, and cruise control was activated.

Jackwitz and his girlfriend were hospitalised at Lismore Base Hospital following the collision.

MORE: 'Unsatisfactory' sentencing and lack of remorse dismay Matthew Benson's family

At sentencing, magistrate James Gibson took into account the relative inexperience of Jackwitz's driving, as he was 19 at the time of the crash and was on his green P-plates.

Though the forensic investigations found Jackwitz was driving below the 100km/h speed limit, he had a responsibility to pay attention, considering the car was in cruise control and at no time did Jackwitz attempt to brake or swerve to avoid a collision.

Mr Gibson said there was a grey area between momentary inattention that makes up negligent driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning death, and while Jackwitz's actions were above the mid-range of objective seriousness, they did not reach the threshold of dangerous driving.

After Mr Benson's family members read victim impact statements to the court, Mr Gibson said he acknowledged their statements but lamented it was a pity that he could not take into consideration how much Matthew was loved when it came to sentencing.

Jackwitz was sentenced to a 10 month intensive corrections order and told to complete 150 hours of community service. Jackwitz was also disqualified from driving for two years.