FRENCH backpacker Jeremy Landru, 26, narrowly avoided actual jail time after he admitted guilt for the car crash which claimed the life of one of his best friends.
Defence solicitor Dan Habermann, who represented Landru as "friend of the court", told Toowoomba District Court his client's sentence had started from the moment the car he was driving collided with a truck on the New England Hwy near Glen Aplin on January 7.
His client's friend, aged 24, was thrown from their station wagon on impact and declared dead at the scene while their two other friends, also French nationals, were injured and taken to separate hospitals on the coast, he said.
The court heard the four friends had met up in Sydney in December last year and had bought a vehicle to travel in.
After spending some time on the Gold Coast, the four backpackers had driven to Stanthorpe in search of farm work and had travelled on to Glen Aplin on the chance of obtaining work on a mushroom farm.
Landru had been driving slowly along the side of the highway looking for the entrance to the farm.
Stopped at the side of the road, he then turned right across the road into oncoming traffic, the court heard.
Crown prosecutor Noel Needham said a truck towing a trailer coming the other way had no time to avoid a collision and smashed into the rear of the station wagon, ripping the vehicle in two.
The deceased, who had been sitting in the back seat, sustained massive head and chest injuries, the court heard.
Mr Needham tendered to the court a letter from the deceased's mother in which she asked the court to have mercy for Landru, saying "Jeremy was my son's friend".
"He (Landru) is more in need of help and support than punishment," she said.
Mr Habermann said his client could not explain what had happened that day but was devastated by the consequences.
A series of letters from employers, friends and family spoke highly of Landru and one of his friends, Renee, who had been in the car that day had stayed on in Australia to support him and was in court continuing that support, he said.
The third passenger, Nicholas, had returned to France for their friend's funeral which his client could not do as his passport had been confiscated until the case had been dealt with, he said.
Judge Deborah Richards said it was only in exceptional circumstances that drivers guilty of causing death did not go to jail, but she accepted this was one such case.
Accepting Landru was "quite devastated" by the events, Judge Richards sentenced him two years jail but suspended the term immediately for two years and disqualified him from driving in Australia for two years.
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