Simone Rutley was trapped for more than an hour.
Simone Rutley was trapped for more than an hour.

‘Terrible and tragic mistake’ led to mum’s death

A 'truly good' man made a 'terrible and tragic mistake' after an afternoon at a pub that ended with him jailed, a mother dead and two families broken apart.

Jason Warne made the fateful decision to drive 70km home after an afternoon drinking at the Nimbin Hotel during which he drank four to five XXXX beers and smoked at least one joint.

The 42-year-old had driven less than 1km when he drifted across double lines on a left hand bend, in a 50km/h zone just south of the town, his Toyota Landcruiser ploughed head on into Simone Rutley's van.

Ms Rutley lay trapped for more than an hour as police, paramedics, and locals helped the critically injured 49-year-old. She was airlifted to hospital but later died.

Mr Warne's injuries were comparatively minor, the Northen Star reported.

"I can't remember a thing," he said when asked what happened. Blood alcohol readings would later find he was at least three times over the legal limit, and had cannabis in his system.

Warne was last week sentenced to at least three years in jail for dangerous driving occasioning death.

His barrister told the District Court his client was aware of the "awful damage that this has caused, not just him, but the people who are unfortunately left behind as a result of the death of the deceased"

The court heard Warne had exhibited "genuine contrition" and it was "highly unlikely" he would "ever find himself in a criminal dock ever again".

Jason Warne made the fateful decision to drive home from the Nimbin Hotel.
Jason Warne made the fateful decision to drive home from the Nimbin Hotel.


Reports showed he had ceased his use of any illicit substance, including cannabis, since the offence. He had also suffered from depression and anxiety as a result, and there was some evidence of "suicidal ideation".

However, he had conceded full responsibility for his actions, and was very willing to meet Ms Rutley's family in a restorative justice mediation process, the court heard.

The Crown prosecutor said Warne's level of moral culpability had to be considered high, even though his one-off behaviour was "out of character".

"From Ms Rutley's position she was innocently making her away home, a mother, a spouse, a daughter, a sibling is senselessly lost," he said of the tragic crash.

In sentencing Warne, Judge Deborah Sweeney referred to a psychologist report which described Warne as "truly a good man who unfortunately made a terrible and tragic mistake".

But she agreed that his moral culpability had to be considered high.

Judge Sweeney sentenced Warne to a total term of five years' jail, with parole granted after three years.

He will be eligible for parole on February 1, 2021, and his licence will be disqualified for three years after his release.

Outside court, Ms Rutley's daughter Tessa spoke briefly, saying she was "devastated that his family is broken now too".