The cyclist who was hit head-on and left for dead by a 24-year-old drug user is hoping the woman’s six-year jail sentence gives him an opportunity to move on.
Christian Ashby sat among family and friends in a packed court room at Ballarat on Monday when Judge Michael McInerney handed down a six-year jail sentence to the woman who ruined his life.
Rebekah Stewart sat looking at the floor as Judge McInerney told her she would not be eligible for parole until she had served four of her six year jail sentence.
For Mr Ashby, the conclusion of the matter after almost a year meant his family could now move on.
“Whether she got one year, 10 years or 20 years, it’s not going to help me get on with life, but it was great to see there is a deterrent for people who do something like this to someone else,” he told waiting media outside the Ballarat Law Courts.
“It’s been a tough time ... very, very hard on everyone, on the defendant’s family as well.
“Physically and mentally I’m wrecked. It’s now just a matter of getting on with life the best we can.”
Mr Ashby took the opportunity to thank his three saviours, who without their assistance on the morning of the horrific hit-run, he may not have survived.
“Without them I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
“(Also) the cycling community in Ballarat and general public have been incredible. I will never forget what they’ve done for me.”
When asked whether he ever turned his mind to the thought of someone leaving a vulnerable person like him in the middle of the road with life-threatening injuries, Mr Ashby said he was not angry.
“It’s happened and we have to move forward. I don’t really give it a thought, the important part is moving forward,” he said.
As for what’s next, Mr Ashby has a number of goals.
“Trying to be as fit and active as possible and try to be a good dad and husband for my wife,” he said.
During sentencing, Judge McInerney told Stewart while there was no joy in sending any 24-year-old to prison, there was no alternative. In addition to fleeing the scene, Judge McInerney said the steps taken to hide the car and herself only exacerbated the situation.
“This is clearly the most serious example of this offence (dangerous driving causing serious injury),” he said.
“During the plea the word catastrophe was used. It is the most apt word to describe the consequences of this accident to all those involved,” he said.
“The circumstances of these crimes are appalling.”
He said he found the 12-page victim impact statement of Mr Ashby “moving” and stoic” in what helped create a detailed picture of the crime. Stewart was jailed for four years for failing to stop after an accident, and 3.5 years for dangerous driving causing serious injury – two years will be served accumulative on the four-year sentence.
She was also disqualified from driving for eight years.
The lengthy jail sentence and time off the road for Stewart was met with praise from a number of members from the cycling community, who are hopeful the sentence will act as a deterrent for other road users.
"Anyone that doesn't understand the level of responsibility needed to drive a car should not be allowed on the roads," said Bicycle Network chief executive officer Craig Richards.
"A lengthy jail term and licence suspension for Ms Stewart sends a strong message, but nothing will make up for the damage and trauma caused to Christian and his family. We need to take proactive steps to stop dangerous drivers before they cause such serious incidents."