Taylor Hosking put lives at risk. Picture: Sean Fewster
Taylor Hosking put lives at risk. Picture: Sean Fewster

Ex-judge begs court not to jail youth who sabotaged train

She has judged some of Australia's worst offenders, and acted in some of its highest-profile cases, during her long and distinguished career.

On Thursday, former South Australian District Court judge and top barrister Marie Shaw QC stepped into the witness box to plead for mercy on behalf of a man who endangered dozens of innocent lives.

In emotional scenes, Ms Shaw urged the court over which she once presided to give Taylor Hosking - who pushed a car in front of an oncoming train - a second chance.

Fighting back tears, she said Hosking - a former participant in her "Ice Factor" youth hockey program - could and would turn his life around.

"I came here to ask Your Honour to give him another chance ... much of what has driven him to this point has not been of his own making," she told Judge Jack Costello.

"Up to this point he has been a really good young man who has a lot to offer the community ... I can understand why he gave up on himself.

"I would be confident that, if Your Honour gives him that chance, you will never see him before the courts again ... I think he can revert to the really good young man that I know he is."

The car was deliberately rolled into the path of a train at Lonsdale station in August 2018. Picture: Roxanne Wilson
The car was deliberately rolled into the path of a train at Lonsdale station in August 2018. Picture: Roxanne Wilson

Hosking, 22, of Christies Beach, pleaded guilty to aggravated endangering life and two counts of damaging a motor vehicle.

In August last year, he and then-friend Joel Altschwager used a golf club to smash the windows of cars at the Lonsdale Railway Station.

They then pushed one empty car onto the tracks, ahead of a passenger train that was travelling at 100km/h - though the train hit the car, no one was injured.

Altschwager was sentenced earlier this year, and jailed for at least 3 1/2 years.

On Thursday, the court heard a victim impact statement written by the train driver.

"I felt an extreme wave of shock ... once I applied the emergency brake, the stress an anticipation of the consequences of impact was overwhelming," he said.

"I felt concern for the passengers and also my own safety, not knowing what was going to happen."

Stacey Carter, for Hosking, said her client's childhood was marred by his father's alcoholism, which interrupted his schooling and left him socially isolated.

His life was put back on track through participation in Ms Shaw's program, and he had gone on to a stable relationship with two children and a stepchild.

Taylor Hosking, pictured outside the District Court with lawyer Stacey Carter, has the backing of former judge Marie Shaw QC. Picture: Sean Fewster
Taylor Hosking, pictured outside the District Court with lawyer Stacey Carter, has the backing of former judge Marie Shaw QC. Picture: Sean Fewster

However, a temporary breakdown in that relationship saw him seeking support from Altschwager, a "bad influence" who suggested the vandalism while both were drunk.

"He had no intention of causing any harm to anyone ... he was following the leader, he was intoxicated, he thought it would be a prank," she said.

"He didn't really appreciate the seriousness of what could occur."

She said that, unlike Altschwager, Hosking was a first-time offender with no history of violence, warranting a more lenient sentence than his co-offender.

Hosking read a letter of apology to the court, saying he "fully accepted responsibility" for his actions.

"I regret my choices, I'm not proud of what I've done and I would like to prove myself if given the chance," he said.

"I'm ashamed of what I did and want to be a positive role model and give my children the best position in life I can as a parent."

Damien Cunningham, prosecuting, said Hosking must serve at least a home detention sentence.

"It's offending that put innocent lives at risk - if the driver hadn't applied the brakes when he did, this could have been much worse," he said.

Judge Costello said he had been "significantly moved" by the pleas on Hosking's behalf, but would have to balance that against the severity of his actions.

He remanded him on continuing bail for sentencing later this month.