A P-plate driver who killed a man and maimed another in a horrific drunken crash made a chilling claim just moments before the carnage unfolded, telling her passenger “nah, I can drive”, a court has been told.
Ugly scenes unfolded outside Brisbane District Court on Thursday as the family of Leroy Sullivan learnt that his killer, Tahlia Skye Love, would only spend some 15 months behind bars for her act.
The court was told a drunken Love was behind the wheel when she flipped her car, south of Brisbane, and Mr Sullivan was killed.
He was just 19.
Screams erupted as Mr Sullivan’s supporters and Ms Love’s family, including her partner, clashed when court was adjourned.
Outside court, Mr Sullivan’s family said they felt the sentence was too lenient given Mr Sullivan’s life had been taken.
“It doesn’t add up to a lifetime of being without him,” Samantha Bond, Mr Sullivan’s aunt, told reporters after the sentence.
Love, 21, pleaded guilty to a single charge of dangerous driving causing death and grievous bodily harm while affected by an intoxicating substance and excessively speeding.
The court was told Love was at a party with Mr Sullivan and another male, on the night of June 26, 2020 when the horror crash occurred.
Crown prosecutor Jordan Daniels said Love was drinking a vodka cruiser that night and appeared to stumble.
She said it was unknown how much the then 18-year-old consumed that night.
Ms Daniels said Mr Sullivan offered to do the first stint of driving when the party wound down, but Love was ultimately behind the wheel at the time of the crash.
Love was seen running a red light, speeding – at times going 120km/h – and swerving among traffic while her two male passengers were in the car.
“She continued to drink alcohol, a vodka cruiser, as she drove,” Ms Daniels said.
The 17-year-old began to fear for his life and asked Love if he could drive.
Love responded with: “Nah, I can drive. Everyone thinks I can’t drive.”
Ms Daniels said the 17-year-old, in turn, said: “Just let me drive, you can hurt one of us.”
The court was told the car rolled as Love tried to navigate a bend on Richie Rd, causing the 17-year-old’s head to strike the windscreen and leave him with serious head and facial injuries.
“He exited, bloodied and stumbling … he said, ‘I’m going to die, I need my mum,” Ms Daniels said.
“Leroy was trapped in the car and it was only after paramedics arrived that the door from the car that was wrapped around him could be removed and they could commence CPR.”
Mr Sullivan died from his injuries.
The court was told the 17-year-old suffered significant lacerations to his face and still had facial scars six months later.
Without treatment, his wounds could have become infected and he may have died, Ms Daniels said.
Love, who was on a provisional licence at the time, had a BAC of 0.98 per cent.
District Court Judge Dean Morzone KC said Love’s actions had “left a void” in the Sullivan family that would never be filled.
“It will be constantly subject to a reminder at birthdays and other milestones, as others reflect on pastimes, and even simply at the dinner table,” Judge Morzone explained.
“He will never emerge as an adult.”
Judge Morzone sentenced Love to six years’ jail, imposing a parole eligibility date in 15 months.
Love’s defence barrister Joe Briggs said his client, who worked at fashion outlet TJ Maxx, accepted how “utterly wrong” what she did was.
“She is very remorseful … she accepts how awfully things have worked out,” he said.
Mr Briggs said Love was medicated for her depression and had the support of her family and partner, whom she had a son with.
The court was told Love had been using alcohol since she was 12 but had never sought professional help.