Family’s heartbreaking tribute to 15yo son as ‘vigilante’ jailed over fatal chase
A man has been sentenced to seven years jail for manslaughter after he pursued a 15-year-old boy, who he mistakenly thought was riding his stolen motorcycle in Perth's southern suburbs, into a passing SUV.
Mitchell Chase died in hospital after his trail bike collided with the vehicle at an intersection in the residential suburb of Aubin Grove on December 28, 2016.
The 15-year-old was being pursued by Jude Nathan Francis, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, failing to stop and provide assistance and failing to report the incident.
Francis, 26, was chasing the teenager because he thought he had stolen his motorcycle.
He was also driving while his licence was suspended.
During sentencing, Justice Bruno Fiannaca said while he accepted Francis now felt remorse for the teenager's death, his actions at the time were "callous and shameful".
"You made the choice to act as a vigilante and place him in danger," he said.
"You alone are responsible for his death."
Francis checked bike before fleeing crash scene
Justice Fiannaca also said he did not believe what Francis had told police when he said he fled the scene and did not report it because he was panicked and in shock.
He said that did not match with someone who had taken the time to check to see if the motorcycle was his by looking for distinctive stickers.
In front of a packed courtroom, Justice Fiannaca said it was clear Francis — who has a four-year-old son — came from a supportive family who had witnessed the grief it had caused him.
A psychological report found Francis was suffering from some form of acute post traumatic stress as well as both anxiety and depression.
Justice Fiannaca said while all of this was taken into consideration, the impact of Francis' actions on Mitchell's family had been extreme.
Mitchell's parents Denise and Wayne Chase both broke down in tears when Justice Fiannaca spoke about their victim impact statements, which he labelled "heart-wrenching reading".
'We struggle every day with the loss'
Speaking outside court flanked by a large group of Mitchell's friends, Ms and Mr Chase said while they were happy with the sentence, they had been devastated by the loss of their son.
"We just hope that this is a lesson for anybody in the future that thinks of doing anything similar," Ms Chase said.
"He had such a bright future ahead … how much we struggle every day with the loss of Mitch. Just walking into an empty room, or just smelling his clothes to try and feel him, or talk to an empty space.
"Mitch was a strong person and he stood up for so many people.
"To know that he was so scared, that's part of my nightmares at night."
Mr Chase said his son was his hero.
"He was the most unique character I ever met," he said.
"He was just confident. He was my hero. He was everything I wished I could be.
"His success, his drive, his love of life — I don't go more than two minutes without thinking about him."
I don't want to give Francis any thought: father
Ms Chase said they felt a lengthy prison term, taking Francis away from his own parents, would go some way to helping them understand what losing a child was like.
"His mum and dad will know what we feel like. We've not seen Mitch for 17 months and it feels like a lifetime," she said.
Mr Chase said he now wanted to put the man responsible for his son's death out of his mind.
"From now on I don't want to give him any thought," he said.
"Hopefully I never come face to face with him [or] see him, [and] give as little time as possible thinking about him."
Mitchell's parents spent some time embracing their son's friends before leaving the courthouse.
In addition to the prison sentence, Francis was banned from holding a drivers licence for three years, with the disqualification to be served once he is released from prison.
He will be eligible for parole in five years.