BRENTON Brown, the driver responsible for a hit-and-run that killed Moe woman Carol-Anne Jones, will spend at least three-and-a-half years in jail.

Mr Brown was sentenced to five years and seven months jail in Melbourne’s County Court on Friday, May 10 with a non-parole period of three years and six months.

The charges laid against Mr Brown, which he pleaded guilty to on April 30 in the Latrobe Valley County Court, were for dangerous driving causing death, failing to stop after an accident, failing to render assistance, committing an offence while on bail, driving while disqualified and driving an unregistered vehicle.

Before delivering the sentence last week, Judge Robyn Harper told the court: “Members of the community must be protected from you and your irresponsible driving behaviour”.

“With a driving history as poor as yours, other road users have been repeatedly placed at risk, a risk that has now been realised in the most tragic way.”

The 31-year-old Morwell man was on bail and an unlicensed driver at the time he hit Ms Jones’ car on May 2 last year.

The unregistered Nissan Patrol he was driving veered onto the wrong side of Purvis Road, in Tanjil South, struck the front right side of Ms Jones’ Hyundai Accent hatch, and trapped her inside.

After hitting her car, Mr Brown left Ms Jones for dead – twice.

The court was told that Mr Brown had exited the vehicle and run west, past Ms Jones in her car. He did not report the incident. Instead, Mr Brown fled to a nearby property before calling the owner of the Nissan Patrol, who immediately called police to report the car had been stolen.

Mr Brown ran to another property and informed the homeowner of the crash, whom he also asked to call 000. However, the person could not find their phone. The property owner drove Mr Brown back to the collision scene, where he searched the Nissan Patrol for his identification cards before leaving again.

Passers-by came to Ms Jones’ aid, and she was treated at the scene before being taken to the Latrobe Valley Hospital. She died of complications on May 18, 2023 in the Alfred Hospital.

Judge Robyn Harper described Mr Brown’s driving as an accident waiting to happen.

Her Honour told the court that what could not be foreseen, however, was the “cowardly” and “unfathomable” actions Mr Brown took by leaving a seriously injured person trapped inside a vehicle – first as he fled the scene and second as he returned to retrieve ID. After failing to assist Ms Jones in the second instance, Mr Brown left the scene again.

“At no stage immediately after the collision or on your return to the scene did you try to assist Ms Jones, despite her being obviously trapped in her vehicle,” Judge Harper said.

Judge Harper told the court that Ms Jones was a beloved sister, daughter, and friend, as detailed by five victim impact statements read to the court at the hearing on Tuesday, April 30.

“Nothing this court can say or do can in any way adequately address the loss felt by Ms Jones’ family and friends. They have been forever impacted and will continue to miss her terribly as a result of your offending.”

As Her Honour read the victim impact, family and friends of Ms Jones who attended the sentencing dabbed wet cheeks, memories of their sister, daughter, and friend resurfacing as Judge Harper summarised the statements.

The court heard that Amanda Lawrie-Jones recounted the impact of her sister Carol-Anne’s death in court, reflecting on the profound loss and unanswered questions that haunt her.

“What if he stayed at the scene and called for help, would she have lived?” lamented Ms Lawrie-Jones, in the County Court in the Latrobe Valley on April 30.

Judge Harper said the sisters shared a bond rooted in shared interests like arts, fashion, and fine dining. They were planning a trip to Paris to celebrate Carol-Anne’s 60th birthday later this year.

Her Honour summarised Ms Jones’ parent’s impact statement, noting that her mother, Isobel, wears Carol-Anne’s perfume, the scent summoning the memory of her daughter. Ms Jones’ late father John had lost interest in his “beloved garden” after his daughter’s death.

Mr Brown sat in the dock, elbows resting over his knees, rubbing one hand over the other as he listened.

The Age reported that Mr Brown apologised to the Jones family for failing to help her as she was trapped in her car and told them he had acted like a coward.

“I’m so sorry for your loss and I can only imagine how you all feel,” Mr Brown said in the letter read out by his lawyer, Jonathan Miller, in late April.

“I think about and regret that every day, and dream about it every night. I don’t expect your forgiveness because I’ll never forgive myself for the accident which killed an innocent woman,” the letter said.

Mr Brown had a dysfunctional upbringing, the court heard, was exposed to family violence and sexual abuse, and had an extensive criminal history that included driving offences.

Her Honour described Charges 2 and 3, failing to stop after an accident and failing to render assistance, as ranking especially high on the scale of seriousness.

“You say you panicked. This may have been the case, but it is reprehensible conduct,” Her Honour said, referring to Mr Brown failing to render Ms Jones assistance.

After 21 minutes, Her Honour asked Mr Brown to stand as she delivered the sentence, committing him to five years and seven months in jail. With a final curt nod, Mr Brown left the dock.