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Singleton truck crash: Rodney Johnson's appeal over jail term denied for 'staggeringly dangerous' driving

RODNEY Johnson - who used a stolen semi-trailer to lead police on a 100-kilometre chase along the New England Highway and then ripped through Singleton like a 42-tonne fireball, injuring 10 people - has failed in his bid to have his jail term reduced.

Johnson was jailed for a maximum of 12 years and six months, with a non-parole period of six years and six months in Newcastle District Court last year after he pleaded guilty to a "staggeringly dangerous" course of driving in October, 2017.

Johnson stole the prime mover at Murrurundi and drove it 113km to Singleton, often at speed and on the wrong side of the road. He attempted to ram pursuing police cars and, in Singleton, drove over road spikes. The truck then careered through multiple cars, the front of a hotel, a bus shelter, the front of a house and a telegraph pole, bursting into flames and leaving Singleton looking "akin to a war zone".

WAR ZONE: The scene of the Singleton truck crash and, inset, Rodney Johnson.

WAR ZONE: The scene of the Singleton truck crash and, inset, Rodney Johnson.

Johnson's lawyers had appealed against the severity of the jail term, claiming the sentence was "manifestly excessive" and that Judge Tim Gartelmann, SC, erred in his assessment of the objective seriousness of the offences in light of Johnson's mental health.

The Court of Criminal Appeal delivered its judgment on Monday, dismissing the appeal and finding that Judge Gartelmann had paid explicit and detailed attention to Johnson's relapse into acute psychosis in the days before he embarked on the trail of destruction and that the sentence adequately reflected a balance between the objective seriousness and Johnson's reduced moral culpability due to his mental health.

"The task of sentencing in this case was undoubtedly difficult; probably to a degree greater than usual," the CCA judgment reads.

"On the one hand the judge had to take into account [Johnson's] mental illness and its causal connection with the offending. On the other hand, there were a number of objective factors that, absent the mental illness, were indicative of a high degree of criminality. The sentencing judge could not lightly dismiss the offending by regarding it as at the lowest end of the spectrum. The offences committed from the time of taking the 42-tonne truck from its owner in Murrurundi until the final collisions, explosion and fire at Singleton about 90 minutes later were of a high degree of seriousness [putting aside the mental illness].

"Ten people were injured. Many others were threatened with injury and there was a serious risk to the lives of five police officers.

"The damage to vehicles and other property was substantial. The psychological trauma to those who were threatened by [Johnson's] conduct and those who witnessed it is incalculable."

This story Singleton truck crash: Rodney Johnson's appeal denied over 'staggeringly dangerous' driving first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.