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Appeal over serious charges being dropped in Casino fatal crash case

A supplied photo of Elle Underhill, who was killed in an accident near Casino.

A supplied photo of Elle Underhill, who was killed in an accident near Casino.

An appeal has been lodged with the Director of Public Prosecutions after serious charges were dropped against the driver of a car involved in a crash near Casino in 2015 which resulted in the death of a four-year-old girl.

Courteney Pearl Matthews was initially charged with dangerous driving occasioning death, dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, negligent driving occasioning death, and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, over the December 18 incident in which Elle Underhill was killed.

The then 18-year-old Ms Matthews, who had just finished her HSC, was babysitting the policeman’s daughter when she was driving a red Mazda 323, along the Bruxner Highway about 1.20pm and she collided with a white Subaru Liberty about 10km east of Casino.

The impact of the collision tore the Mazda in half.

Sergeant Steve Underhill was one of the first members of emergency services on the scene and he found his two year-old daughter, who was sitting in the back seat next to Elle, suffering serious injuries.

On September 2, at Byron Bay Local Court, Magistrate Michael Dakin dropped the charges of dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm against Ms Matthews.

Whether Ms Matthews was distracted by a text message, Mr Dakin said, or one of the children was having a tantrum as she claimed, would be decided by a jury.

Mr Dakin said the evidence before the court did not establish Ms Matthews drove the car in a dangerous manner.

He highlighted evidence from the driver following her before the crash, Harold Wray, who said Ms Matthews was travelling at less than the maximum speed permitted for a p-plate driver of 90km/h.

The matters were adjourned to Lismore Local Court on Tuesday where it was revealed an appeal had been lodged by the Lismore office of the DPP.

The court heard the local office of the DPP had lodged a report with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions ODPP to consider ‘ex-officio accounts’ in relation to the charge of dangerous driving occasioning death.

If the ODPP agrees with the report it can elect to take the matters to trial, effectively overruling Magistrate Dakin’s decision.

Ms Matthews, who is yet to enter pleas to any charges, was excused from appearing on Tuesday but was represented by solicitor Monique Hannigan.

Magistrate R Denes adjourned the matters until November 7 at Lismore Local Court to allow the ODPP time to consider the report.


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