Young mother allegedly on meth when Hastings crash killed her daughter

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Police said Valencia Skipper’s car appeared to have crossed the centre line, rolled and ended up in a ditch. Saphire died at the scene.

A young mother is facing a rare charge of causing the death of her own daughter while driving under the influence of methamphetamine.

Police have charged 21-year-old Hastings mother Valencia Marie Skipper with causing the death of 2-year-old Saphire Te Aroha Skipper-Hira while under the influence of the Class A drug.

The charge carries the same maximum penalty as drink-driving causing death – up to 10 years in prison, or a $20,000 fine.

Valencia Skipper and daughter Saphire, who died in a crash in Hastings in January. Skipper has now been charged with ...

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Valencia Skipper and daughter Saphire, who died in a crash in Hastings in January. Skipper has now been charged with driving while under the influence of methamphetamine, causing the 2-year-old’s death.

Saphire died in January after being thrown from a rolling car in what police described at the time as a “violent crash” on the Hawke’s Bay expressway near Hastings.

There was a child restraint in the rear of the car, but police said they were looking at the possibility that Saphire was not restrained at the time.

Scene of the crash, on the Hawke's Bay expressway in January.

MEGAN HUNT/ FAIRFAX NZ

Scene of the crash, on the Hawke’s Bay expressway in January.

The crash occurred on State Highway 50A, on the outskirts of Hastings between Omahu Rd and Flaxmere Ave, just before 5pm on January 13.

Police said at the time that the Nissan Primera in which Saphire was travelling appeared to have crossed the centre line, rolled and ended up in a ditch.

Saphire died at the scene, despite attempts to resuscitate her by ambulance staff and motorists who had stopped to help.

Her mother and aunt, who was also a passenger in the car, were both taken to Hawke’s Bay Hospital with moderate injuries.

As well as being charged with causing her daughter’s death, Skipper faces a second charge of driving while forbidden.

According to court documents, she had initially been scheduled to appear in Hastings District Court on Monday, but court staff said her first appearance had been put back to next month.

Senior Constable Cory Ubels, of the Hawke’s Bay serious crash unit, said he could not comment on the case while it was before the courts.

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DRUG-IMPAIRED DRIVING LAWS

The type of charge laid against Skipper is relatively rare, according to Karen Harding, an Auckland lawyer specialising in driving cases.

From 2009, amendments to the Land Transport Act gave police new powers to prosecute drug-impaired drivers.

Officers who have grounds to suspect a driver is on drugs can carry out a compulsory roadside “impairment test”. They can also take a blood sample to check for the presence of a range of drugs if a driver fails that initial test.

If a person is injured in a crash, police can require them to have a blood sample taken while they are in hospital to determine whether they have a Class A drug, such as methamphetamine, in their system.

Hutt Valley-based criminal defence lawyer Geoff Fulton described the charge under section 61 2b of the Land Transport Act as unusual. “You’re not required to prove the level [of methamphetamine]; only that the drug is in the bloodstream.”

In 2012, West Auckland mother Toni Ericksen was sentenced to 12 months’ home detention and 200 hours’ community work after a crash that killed her 12-year-old daughter Bryer Greenwood, and injured her 8-year-old daughter Gemma.

Ericksen, 33, had pleaded guilty before trial to driving while under the influence of drugs causing death, two charges of driving under the influence of drugs causing injury, and driving while forbidden.

In March this year, Janine Elizabeth Carter, 37, was jailed for three years and two months for fatally injuring a 69-year-old woman in a crash while high on methamphetamine.

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