Taylah Hocking to be jailed for three years over hit-run
A TEXT-MESSAGING P-plater who hit her mother's best friend, before leaving her for dead on the side of the road and staging a cover-up, will likely go to jail for three years.
Victoria's Bendigo County Court judge Bill Stuart outlined his plans for sentencing the 20-year-old on Friday but can't formally proceed without the result of a pre-sentence report.
Taylah Hocking had been at a 21st birthday party with her mother's best friend Tracey-Lee Kemp and others, at the local pub in Huntly, in central Victoria, last August, when she left the venue in her car.
The young driver, who, by law, is required a zero blood alcohol reading to drive, had also been drinking before she got behind the wheel.
Hocking had held her probationary license for only three months before she left the pub, just after 12.40am, on August 14, in her gold Holden sedan.
She was alone in the car, and set off along the Midland Highway.
Just moments earlier, Ms Kemp, 45, had left the pub to walk home, after an argument. Her boyfriend called her asking if she wanted to be picked up.
He was speaking to her at 12.43am, when he said her phone suddenly went silent.
According to phone records, that was the exact time Hocking received a text message from her ex-boyfriend.
All subsequent attempts by Ms Kemp's boyfriend to call her went straight to voicemail. Hocking's car veered off the road and struck Ms Kemp. The then 19-year-old did not stop to render assistance.
It is believed Ms Kemp, who the Bendigo County Court heard was regarded as a "second mother" by Hocking, was still alive after the crash.
But it was not until more than two hours later that the publican, travelling home after closing for the night, found her face down beside the road, about 1.5km from the pub.
Emergency services attended, they could not save the mother-of-one.
She died at the scene.
The Bendigo Advertiser reports that soon after the hit-run, about four kilometres further along the highway in the town of Epsom, Hocking turned into a side street and deliberately crashed into a tree.
She then called her mother, who sent another person to collect her, so she could be taken somewhere to sober up.
By the time police arrived, she was gone. She did not mention the hit and run to anybody.
Just hours earlier, she had posted photos of herself and Ms Kemp at the party on her Facebook page.
Police arrested Hocking the following morning and charged with dangerous driving causing death. She denied killing Ms Kemp.
"I didn't do it, I'd remember. You can't not remember something like that," the Bendigo Advertiser reported she told police.
"I didn't do it, if I had hit someone I wouldn't just drive off."
The weight of forensic evidence piled up against her.
Police investigators found the crash into the tree in Epsom was most likely deliberate. It occurred at low speed, with tyre marks indicating no attempt to swerve.
Furthermore, the damage to the car was consistent with hitting a pedestrian.
In December last year, she admitted her involvement and formally pleaded guilty before Bendigo Magistrates Court.
On Friday, she appeared before the higher jurisdiction County Court, for the continuation of her pre-sentence hearing.
Judge Stuart revealed he intended to sentence the 20-year-old to three years in a youth detention centre, the maximum allowable sentence for juvenile offenders in Victoria.
He will formally sentence her in August but said it was clear to him she had not been paying attention while at the wheel.
"Anyone driving at night would have had a clear view of a person walking on the shoulder of the highway," he said, according to theBendigo Advertiser.
"The only possible explanation for this collision is that you chose to read those texts while you were driving.
"You chose to be distracted. You chose to drive whilst having consumed alcohol during the course of the night.
"You chose not to tell anybody. You chose to make a fake accident in order to cover your tracks."
Hocking is scheduled to be sentenced on August 22.