Christopher Hennessey: Record sentence upheld for meth-addled driver who killed Lachlan McLaren

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The meth-addled driver responsible for killing a teenager on his 16th birthday has lost a bid to reduce his record-long jail sentence.

Christopher Hennessey, 33, was jailed for 15 years two years ago after “foolishly” deciding to drive while drug affected and sleep deprived in 2021.

He had rented a ute to help friends move home when, on August 15, he drove at speeds of up to 130km/h the wrong way down Nepean Highway in Mentone, mounted the kerb and struck Lachlan McLaren.

Lachlan had left home just minutes earlier to walk his girlfriend, Ella Mahoney, home as his parents prepared a birthday dinner.

Moments before the pair were struck, Lachlan’s last act was to move Ella out of the path of the oncoming vehicle.

“Those who know him are not surprised at this last selfless act,” Judge Michael Tinney wrote in his sentencing remarks.

“Lachie had probably saved her life but he could not save his own … you should never have got behind the wheel of a car, and given your actual state, you had no business being anywhere near a car.

“It is a nightmarish scene and one that plays back on a never-ending loop.

“You were death on wheels, quite literally.”

Hennessey appealed his sentence at a hearing late last year, with his lawyers arguing it was “manifestly excessive” and Judge Tinney had “struggled to resist” placing too much emphasis on the heartbreaking anguish of Mr McLaren’s family and friends.

The court was told Hennessey’s sentence was the longest individual sentence imposed for culpable driving causing death.

The case returned before the Victorian Court of Appeal on Thursday as Justices Karen Emerton and Simon Whelan dismissed the appeal.

In their written reasons they found that while the sentence was “at the very top” of sentencing ranges, they disagreed it was not “wholly outside” what was available to Judge Tinney.

“The consequences in this case were devastating … this is a case where general deterrence must be seen to ‘loom large’,” they wrote.

“As the sentencing judge also observed, a clear message must be sent to other road users that offences committed whilst driving a vehicle under the influence of methylamphetamine will result in stern consequences.

“Accordingly, the appeal will be dismissed.”