A WOMAN'S misery over the penalty imposed on a driver who left her brain damaged demonstrated the need for a new way of dealing with cases such as hers, a crime policy academic says.
Peter Norden, an adjunct professor at RMIT University, said the angst displayed by Emma De Silva at the 50 hours of community service for the driver, Bryce James Wayland, was a typical outcome of the court system.
The court is not set up to deal with this lady's needs.
Ms De Silva was walking with her then 19-day-old daughter on a footpath next to the Princes Highway at St Peters when a car driven by Wayland careened into them in 2011.
Brain damaged … Emma De Silva before the incident. Photo: Supplied
Professor Norden said ''forum sentencing'' programs - used in 13 local courts in NSW where the victim, offender, support people and police discuss an ''intervention plan'' for the offender in cases where he or she would otherwise face a prison sentence, were a possible solution.
The plan may involve an apology, treatment program, compensation or voluntary work. If the offender does not complete the plan, they return to court.
''We need to apply restorative justice programs much more than we do and we won't have this,'' Professor Norden said.
Serious injuries … Emma De Silva after the incident. Photo: Facebook
''The court system does pretty well within its limitations but the court is not set up to deal with this lady's needs.''
Professor Norden said restorative justice programs allowed victims to tell offenders how the crime had affected their lives, and the offender was forced to confront the repercussions of their actions.
He said the criminal justice system was a ''blunt instrument'' that could not deal with the complex and diverse demands of every case.
Peter De Silva with their baby Eloise. Photo: Simon Alekna
''The frustration that people feel as victims is they're wanting to sort things out for themselves and the courts encourage them to hope they'll get that out of the court proceedings,'' he said.
''You hear people walk out of court and say, 'Twenty years is not enough because I've lost my son'. Twenty years is not enough? What they're saying is, 'I'm still hurting'.''
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found the majority of victims who took part in forum sentencing programs were satisfied with the process and the draft intervention plans, a spokeswoman for the NSW Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said. But a 2009 report by the bureau found no difference in reoffending rates, which has since been made one of the program's objectives.
Ms De Silva said she had to learn to walk, talk and eat again since the accident.
''I wish I was dead still,'' she said. Wayland pleaded guilty to negligent driving occasioning actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum jail term of nine months.
But in sentencing Wayland in the Downing Centre Local Court on Monday, magistrate Graeme Curran said the driver was clearly remorseful. Wayland's parents said their once ''happy, carefree and diligent'' son had become ''withdrawn and depressed''.
Wayland had told the court the accelerator pedal of his Lexus sedan became caught under the floor mat and he swerved to avoid a bus before mounting the kerb and hitting the mother and baby.
Mr Curran said he accepted the version of events and found Wayland's level of culpability was low.