Grieving family upset over lawyer's article
A SOLICITOR whose careless driving killed two young Bundaberg siblings last year has launched an extraordinary tirade against mandatory sentencing after the families of his victims questioned his fine.
Hervey Bay man Donald Gayler, 67, had a "momentary lapse in attention" in April last year while driving home from Brisbane after a 20-hour flight from England.
The crash killed Bundaberg siblings Daniel and Sarah Walker, aged 22 and 30, and seriously injured Sarah's son Sam, 14, as well as the group's friend, Peter Knowles, 25.
Mr Gayler was fined $3000, convicted for driving without due care and attention and disqualified from driving for three months following the crash.
The court's decision prompted mass outrage and became the catalyst for the State Government to alter its dangerous driving causing death laws to give magistrates greater power when sentencing.
Mr Gayler's law firm, Gayler De Vere Legal, has published an article on its website called "Don's Dynamite".
The piece said people calling for mandatory jail for driving offences were "agitators".
"So think of it like this - you have a sound reputation, both in the community and in business," the article reads.
"You might even have an unblemished driving record - but if there is a mandatory term of imprisonment set for your offence, then it doesn't matter what a jury might think, it doesn't even matter what the presiding judge might think.
"You get the mandatory sentence and you go to gaol for the mandatory period.
"Agitators in the community seek mandatory gaol sentences for all types of offences."
The article also questioned whether murderers should be given mandatory jail, such as in cases of domestic violence.
Mr Gayler's firm was contacted and when asked to explain, senior paralegal Lauren De Vere said "absolutely not" and would not comment further.
The mother of the Walker siblings, Kerri Walker, held back tears as she spoke to the NewsMail yesterday about the article.
"Mr Donald Gayler's actions have caused the death of my beautiful children," Ms Walker said.
"Having a drivers' licence is a privilege, not a right.
"I have a life sentence without my beautiful son and daughter."
Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett campaigned with Ms Walker to have the laws changed.
He said Mr Gayler's article was damaging to families who had already been through "hell and back".
"Let's be clear here, these grieving families were never out on a witch-hunt," Mr Bennett said.
"Our campaign was clearly in support of the coroner's recommendations to introduce these sensible reforms, bringing Queensland into line with every other jurisdiction across Australia."
Mr Bennett said the Walkers' brave campaign was not only about seeking justice for their loved ones who would never share another Easter, Christmas, Birthday or other special occasion with their families, but was also about making roads safer for all users.
- Chris Clarke