By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A Pakenham mother of three who drove her daughter to a fight with a 14-year-old girl and then drove her car into the other girl has lost an appeal against her jail sentence.
Jennifer Rose McKenzie, 34, was imprisoned for three months by County Court judge Jane Campton on 10 August, a confirmation of the original sentence which was handed down by Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in April.
“It started with young girls behaving badly and ended with an adult behaving in a worse manner,” Judge Campton said.
The judge said McKenzie’s moral culpability over the “disastrous” incident near Berwick railway station was high.
A car in the wrong hands of someone angry and not in control of their emotions was a lethal weapon, she said.
“As an adult she should never have participated in the dispute between the two girls.
“She should never have drove her daughter to have a fight and she should have left the scene as soon as she saw what was going on,” she said.
Judge Campton said the charge of dangerous driving causing serious injury usually led to jail terms longer than three months.
McKenzie was lucky that the victim, who suffered sport-ending injuries and faced possible arthritis, was not more seriously injured.
The judge also took into account McKenzie’s guilty plea, remorse, previous good character, her “pretty tough life” as a single mother, her post-incident depression and her good prospects of rehabilitation.
On 20 March 2016, McKenzie had driven her daughter and four of her friends to meet and fight the victim.
The two girls were former friends, whose falling out had escalated into abuse on Facebook, phone calls and texts.
They fought for about 30 seconds during the altercation.
After a stone was thrown at McKenzie’s car, she got out and was pushed during a confrontation with the victim. The victim and her friends walked away.
McKenzie claimed she hadn’t expected to come across the victim and her friends again.
She drove around a corner, saw them and then veered into a parking lane and hit the victim, tossing her over the car bonnet.
She got out and asked if the victim was OK. The victim’s friends told her to leave so she waited in her car for an ambulance to arrive.
Defence barrister Julia Munster had sought a punitive and therapeutic community corrections order instead of jail.
McKenzie felt an “eternal shame” for driving her daughter to the fight and failing to do more to stop it, Ms Munster said.
The duration of the dangerous driving was short, just 30 metres and ended with McKenzie unsuccessfully trying to avoid contact, the court heard.
McKenzie had since undertaken psychological counselling and an anger management course, and had suffered criticism and threats on social media.
If jailed, she would lose her part-time job, the court was told.
Prosecutor Leon Fluxman opposed a corrections order, saying the original jail term was “moderate, if not lenient”.
At any point, McKenzie could have reflected as an adult and driven away. Instead she chose to act in a criminal manner with young people in her car and young people standing by the road, Mr Fluxman said.
Her actions had a profound impact on the victim and her family, he said.
McKenzie was also disqualified from driving for 18 months.