Learner driver who killed teen cyclist could face appeal

Rouxle Le Roux was sentenced to home detention today in the Auckland District Court. Photo: NZME
Rouxle Le Roux was sentenced to home detention in the Auckland District Court last week. Photo: NZME
Crown Law has been asked to consider an appeal over the home detention sentence imposed on a teen girl who killed an Air Force cadet in a drunken hit-and-run.

Air Force cadet Nathan Kraatskow, 15, was killed when learner driver Rouxle Le Roux hit him at an Albany intersection on May 18.

The 19-year-old, who had drunk wine and smoked cannabis earlier in the day, then took off in the Mercedes she was driving.

Last Friday, she was sentenced by Judge Nicola Mathers to 11 months' home detention, alongside 250 hours of community work and disqualified from driving for two-and-a-half years.

After the hearing, however, Kraatskow's mum Charlene Kraatskow started a petition on Change.org calling on prosecutors to appeal Le Roux's sentence and seek a harsher penalty.

"I don't think taking someone's life and only getting 11 months' home detention is setting a very good precedent for the kids of today," she later told the Herald.

"They see they can smoke weed, get in a car drunk, drive and then can kill someone and get 11 months home detention."

Today, a spokeswoman for Crown Law told the Herald the Auckland Crown Solicitor has referred the case to the Solicitor-General's office to consider whether an appeal should be filed.

She could not comment further while the process was under way.

"A decision as to whether or not an appeal will/should be filed will be made before the expiry of the appeal period [20 working days from the date the sentence was imposed]," she said.

Charlene Kraatskow was overwhelmed and emotional when the Herald told her about the possible appeal.

"Oh wow," she said, bursting into tears.

"That's amazing ... that's a step in the right direction."

She said the news was completely unexpected.

"When my husband and I started the petition we did it without any expectation at all - we just thought we would try and fight for justice.

"We weren't expecting to get as much support as we have from everyone, this is just amazing."

After Nathan's death, Le Roux posted a distasteful Halloween photo on Instagram of her wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with the caption reading: "Hide your children".

Le Roux's lawyer, Belinda Sellars, QC, said at sentencing her client accepts "full-heartedly" her Instagram post was "ill-thought out".

"At the end of the day this was an accident," she said.

But Charlene Kraatskow said: "I just could not understand how someone could be so heartless and think this whole thing was a joke?"

Dr Bill Hodge, from the University of Auckland's law faculty, told the Herald he believed the "evil, ugly" Instagram photo was reason for prosecutors to give careful consideration to an appeal.

However, criminal lawyer Steve Cullen told Newstalk ZB's Mike Yardley the sentence meets the legal requirements.

"It is within the perimeters of what normally is applied in this kind of case," he said.

"Although it's an absolutely devastating thing to experience, the loss of a child can never be overcome, it's accidental. This person is ... a very young person who is being punished for an accidental death caused on the side of the road.

"My assessment would be that this is within perimeters of available sentencing for this type of offence and this isn't a case where, even on appeal, there is a likelihood of her being imprisoned.

"There's a range of factors taken into account by the judge, discounting factors for example, youth, early guilty pleas, expressions of remorse."

Despite the Instagram photo, Judge Mathers considered Le Roux's remorse to be genuine.

Nathan Kraatskow had dreamed of being in the Royal New Zealand Air Force since he was just 5, the court heard.

He was a Year 11 student at Vanguard Military School and had previously spent two years at Rangitoto College.