A SHARED tragedy has the capacity to bring people together, and that’s the case with three grieving Far North Queensland mothers who lost their sons to hit and runs.
They refuse to let their losses go in vain as they are currently fighting for tougher driving laws to ensure victims and their families receive the justice they deserve.
Janice Bradley, whose son Scott was hit and killed outside of Mossman in 2016, launched a petition to achieve harsher penalties for perpetrators who leave the scene of an accident and fail to help an injured person.
Her petition garnered the support of fellow mothers Rachael Bowden and Katrina Whiteley, whose sons Michael Bowden and Harley Amos were also killed in a similar incident.
The petition has gained significant momentum since it began, and it is one that is supported by Barron River MP Craig Crawford.
Scott Bradley was tragically killed just hours after celebrating his 24th birthday in Mossman.
At 4:30am on Saturday, September 3, 2016, Scott was found on the road after he had been walking down Junction Road on his way to Cooya Beach, to look after his mate’s dogs.
The perpetrator in Scott’s case lost his licence for just 12 months and received three and six months jail respectively for two separate offences, both of which were fully suspended for 18 months.
Scott’s mother Janice said her and her family miss Scott every day.
“Words cannot accurately describe how our world has been turned upside down,” she said.
“It has been extremely hard on all of us, not only did we suffer the injustice of losing Scotty, but also the injustice of watching the perpetrator walk free from court.”
Ms Bradley said Scott was loved by everyone who met him.
“He would have everyone in stitches with his great sense of humour,” she said.
“Scotty was a very loyal friend, who would give you his last dollar if you needed it – he was called a gentle giant by one of his mates.”
Ms Bradley said it was not until it happened to her that she realised how out-dated and weak the current Queensland laws are.
“It is a maximum penalty of three years in Queensland, whereas it is 10 years in Victoria and 20 years in Western Australia,” she said.
“If the perpetrator runs, they don’t get punished appropriately.
“This is why we are getting a new law enforced, if you run, you will automatically be charged with High Range DUI – hopefully this will make the driver stay and assist the injured.
“There will be no justice for the loss of our sons, but at least by changing the laws, it will make it safer for the community in the future.”
Michael Bowden, 20, was in Weipa for an annual fishing competition when he was hit and killed whilst walking home from a party in the early hours of the morning.
The driver of the vehicle was charged with driving with undue care and attention, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, showing callous disregard, and driving on a restricted licence, (i.e. not licensed to drive at certain hours of the day).
It is estimated Michael was not found or responded to for 30 minutes post incident.
Michael’s mother Rachael Bowden described Michael as a kind, funny, quirky and happy go lucky person who loved life and was great with family and kids.
“He loved his family and adored his brothers and sister, they were best friends and their bonds were only getting stronger,” she said.
“He was the champion for the underdog, stood up for people and never let differences get in the road of knowing someone.
“Everyone remembers his forever smiling face, he was just a beautiful soul taken from us well before he was meant to through the most horrific of circumstances.”
Ms Bowden describes the current Queensland laws pertaining to hit and runs as hopeless, absolutely appalling, weak, disgraceful, pathetic and disrespectful to the value of human life.
“The consequences are greater if you commit fraud or punch a person, harm an animal, or steal something,” she said.
“The laws need to support the victims because the villains thrive in our current weak and diluted system with its weak and soft justice.
“We can never get someone back when they are killed but we can at least make the consequences for the perpetrators real enough to make them stop and consider their actions prior to getting behind the wheel drunk, on drugs, with no licence or in a stolen car – whatever it may be.”
Harley Amos, who had just turned 18, was at a party and left to what his mother Katrina Whiteley believes was to get phone reception.
Just before the incident, Harley had sent Katrina a text message saying he loved her.
“It is a message I will treasure forever,” she said.
“We were very close.”
Harley was hit by a backpacker who was driving home from a party nearby.
The perpetrator fled the scene in a panic as he had been drinking.
The perpetrator pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months jail time.
Ms Whiteley said the laws are out-dated and noted her shock when hearing the little sentence, if any, perpetrators get.
“Maybe it was an accident at first but when you leave someone to die with no assistance and no help it then changes to murder in my opinion,” she said.
Ms Whiteley said Harley was a very outgoing, caring, loving and adventurous young man who loved the outdoors.
“He would fish nearly every day down the Barron or go pig hunting with his mates, and he had just purchased a Ute which he brought home and showed his sister, grandparents and myself – he was so proud,” she said.
“He had so much to look forward to and was so happy; he was in the prime of his time.
“We miss him terribly, it has changed my life and his sister’s life so much, our hearts are broken.
“We miss the cheeky grin and I miss my cuddles that he used to give out.
“Cherish your mates he would always say after losing some of his in tragic circumstances earlier in the year.
“Don’t drink and drive and please watch out for your friends, I don’t want any families to go through what my family has been through.”
For those wanting to help Janice, Rachael and Katrina in their fight for tougher driving laws, you can do so by signing the petition at http://tinyurl.com/yy3ekqnq, or on Facebook at “E-petition: Update Qld Hit-and-Run laws”.
The petition closes on May 12, 2019.