The man who ran over and killed Aboriginal teenager Elijah Doughty in Kalgoorlie last August could walk free from jail in seven months.
He was never charged with murder and was cleared of manslaughter by a Supreme Court jury, which convicted him of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death. He was given a three year jail term but could be released on parole by February.
The anger felt by many when Elijah was killed has not subsided. Elijah’s distraught relatives described the sentence as inadequate. Elijah’s great-aunt Dianne Tucker said no jail term would satisfy the community or lessen the pain of the loss. “I reckon he should get 20 years,” she said.
She said she had hoped the man would give evidence and apologise. “I would have been happier if he had pleaded guilty to manslaughter. I just wanted him to admit that he was guilty, that he did it,” she said.
The trial was harrowing for Elijah’s friends and relatives, as they listened to graphic details of the horrendous injuries the 14-year-old suffered as he was hit and dragged behind a Nissan Navara ute, driven at about 67km/h on a rough dirt track in Gribble Creek.
The verdict was met with cries and shouts of disappointment, with one man saying “that’s bullshit”. The crowd spilled out onto the street, where about 150 people started chanting “Justice for Elijah”. They then marched up Hannan Street behind giant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags, to voice their anger at the trial result and honour Elijah. Armed police shadowed the march.
As they marched back towards the court house chanting “Justice for Elijah” the police boxed them in. As it threatened to turn ugly, Kalgoorlie elder Leo Thomas addressed the crowd: “Be calm,” he said. “This is not what the family wanted. We don’t make the rules, the court makes the rules. People are angry with the verdict, I don’t blame them.”
Respected Boulder footballer Victor Smith, who also works for the Aboriginal Health Service, delivered a fiery speech, saying young Aboriginal boys were victimised by police who targeted them unfairly. He said he had a 10-year-old son who rides a motorbike and if anybody were to run him down he would kill them, to loud applause from the crowd.