Gordon Howey’s family has been waiting.
The waiting came to an end in the Timaru District Court on Friday, when the 23-year-old man who caused Mr Howey’s death in a March 2018 car crash was sentenced to nine months’ home detention, disqualified from driving for three years, and ordered to pay $500 reparation to the Howey family and $669.84 in ambulance fees.
It was a relief, although tinged with disappointment that the role cannabis use had played in the crash had been minimised, and at the length of time it had taken to reach this point.
While Jayden Duffell’s sentencing has finally closed one chapter for Mr Howey’s wife Gwenyth, the couple’s daughter and four sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the story is not yet finished.
Daughter Jan Hide said the family felt that if anything good was to come from the tragedy, the Government needed to urgently introduce drug-drive testing – currently not scheduled until 2021 – and Duffell needed to take the opportunity he had been given to turn his life around.
Duffell’s sentencing gave Ms Hide an important opportunity to talk about the impact her 93-year-old father’s death had had on the family.
“One of the things always was for me to write the [victim impact] statement and read it out in court. It was something I needed to do, and something all the family needed to hear. And he [Duffell] looked at me, he didn’t spend the whole time with his head down.”
Ms Hide was in no doubt about the role cannabis played in the crash that killed her father, and said the family always wanted to highlight the issue of drug-driving.
“The biggest disappointment was around the fact that the judge did not take a lot of notice of the cannabis levels. The level was 7, and in Colorado, for example, the legal limit [for driving] is 5, so he was way over.
“I’m totally convinced that if he did not have those levels of cannabis in his system, the accident would not have happened.”
The family felt Duffell had been given the best possible chance to turn his life around, and knew that was what Mr Howey would have wanted to happen.
“We never particularly wanted to see this boy go to jail; we didn’t think it would do anybody any good. If he’d been sent to prison, it probably would have been a one-way street to more crime.
“My real wish is that he will do something about it. But he has shown very little remorse, and, having worked with alcohol and drug clients, and running the methadone programme, when people use cannabis, they have no real insight.”
The impact Mr Howey had in his community was still apparent.
“I still get people coming up to me, asking about the court case, still talking about him, two years on .. it really was a life well lived.
“The only thing that gives us a little bit of hope is that something good comes out of it.”