Fatal hit and run: Christchurch gang member jailed for nine years

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 7 Sep 2020, 2:07PM
Liam Strickland at an earlier appearance at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Liam Strickland at an earlier appearance at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Fatal hit and run: Christchurch gang member jailed for nine years

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 7 Sep 2020, 2:07PM

A drug dealer high on meth has been jailed for more than nine years after a fatal hit-and-run in Christchurch.

Liam Teau Ariki Strickland, 22, was fleeing police in a stolen van when he struck and killed Dean Amies, 48, in the coastal suburb of New Brighton just before 2pm on August 7 last year.

Father-of-two Strickland was finally arrested after a nine-day police manhunt.

At the High Court in Christchurch this morning, the summary of facts was read to the court and heard by Amies' friends and family.

Strickland had been driving a Subaru he had stolen three weeks earlier, the court heard.

He had two passengers when he was spotted on Marlow Rd by police who flashed their lights and indicated for him to stop.

But he drove off at speed and continued to drive in a "reckless, evasive manner" at speeds up to 90km/h through residential streets.

Smoke was seen coming from the car's engine as it strained under Strickland's erratic driving through the city's eastern suburbs streets, running red lights and crossing the centre line.

As he took a sharp left turn onto Lonsdale St in New Brighton, he lost control, mounted the roadside grass berm, hit a stop sign and some rocks near a house and damaged his stolen car.

He ditched it nearby and with one associate, jumped a fence, and stole a tradesman's Nissan van.

After taking off again and hitting a police dog vehicle, he sped down Shaw St towards the Hawke St roundabout, with police in pursuit.

As Strickland approached the roundabout – a busy area with shoppers and others walking on the footpath - he was doing about 60km/h, the court heard.

Amies was standing on the roadway, watching the speeding van coming and waving his arms for it to stop.

But Strickland, who claims he never saw Amies, struck him in the middle of the front of the van. He made no attempt to brake or miss him. He was still accelerating when he hit him.

Amies was dragged underneath the van for about 20m.

Strickland then took off without stopping to check on Amies, who was fatally injured and died at the scene.

He later abandoned the van and went on the run for nine days while police raided known associates and followed tip-offs.

After Strickland's arrest, he eventually pleaded guilty to a raft of charges, including one of manslaughter.

Today, Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh said it was not an accident but "perhaps a predictable outcome" given Strickland's attitude that day.

While Strickland's defence counsel Rupert Glover said he was deeply remorseful for the tragic outcome of his "drug-fuelled episode", Amies' distraught family say have never seen any remorse or regret.

The victim's sister, Carla Amies called him a "coward" and addressed him directly in the dock: "You could've stopped. Why didn't you stop?"

She described his actions as "cruel" and "callous" and although he's pleaded guilty to manslaughter, told him: "I will always see you as guilty of murder."

His father Barry Amies said his heart aches every day for the needless loss of his son.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and didn't deserve to lose his life so tragically," he said.

The court heard that Strickland – whose own father had been a drug dealer - had admitted being a "chronic" methamphetamine user, dealing drugs to fund his daily habit.

Justice Rob Osborne said there was no sentence he could impose that could replace a much-loved son, brother and uncle, known all round as a "lovely chap".

The judge said Strickland's mind was so caught up on his own escape that day that he did not see Amies until it was too late.

"You did not hesitate, let alone stop," Justice Osborne told Strickland who has a raft of previous criminal convictions.

"The reason you drove as you did was to avoid being caught and being taken back into custody. It was all about you."

Justice Osborne sentenced him to nine years, four months' jail. He decided a minimum period of non-parole was not necessary, but gave him the mandatory three strikes warning.