‘Horrendous’ act

A car at the scene. Picture: ABC NEWS

By Brendan Rees

A teenager who had never driven a car before and who mowed down a crowd of people while “drunk as f…” resulting in a man’s leg to be amputated has been jailed.

Dieu Atem of Cranbourne North pleaded guilty to five charges in the Victorian County Court sitting in Melbourne on 6 August including reckless conduct endangering life and driving without a licence.

Atem, 19, had been drinking heavily at his Endeavour Drive home while celebrating his brother’s birthday with a friend in September last year.

The group then left in a Nissan Pulsar after deciding to go to Collingwood’s Gasometer Hotel.

Judge Elizabeth Brimer said in sentencing remarks a fight broke out at the hotel about during the early hours of the morning where Atem threw a chair, hitting a patron in the head.

Outside the hotel, Atem had been in a fight with a man before being assaulted by a number of others while on the ground, the court heard.

He got behind the wheel of the Pulsar and drove on the wrong side of Mater Street, narrowly missing pedestrians before speeding towards a crowd young people.

The court heard Atem crashed into a parked car, pushing it into another parked car and pinning an 18-year-old man between the vehicles – instantly “shattering” his right leg which had to be amputated.

Judge Brimer said a friend saw “bone poking out” of the man’s leg and with the help of police used his belt and shirt to stop the bleeding.

Another man waiting for a taxi was knocked to the ground, requiring stitches to his leg.

Atem left the scene and caught a taxi where he paid a $126 fare to travel to Cranbourne railway station.

That night, police arrested Atem who admitted being at the hotel but “couldn’t remember a lot of the night due to being hit in the head.” He was released pending enquiries.

Nearly two weeks later police executed a search warrant at Atem’s home, seizing the clothes he wore on the night of the incident.

Atem admitted he had never had a driving lesson nor driven a car before the incident, the court heard.

In sentencing, Judge Brimer said Atem drove in “a manner such that you could easily have killed a number of people.”

She described the injuries suffered by the 18-year-old as “horrendous”.

“While the other injuries suffered by other victims, fortunately, were less serious, nevertheless, they were injuries caused to people out at night with friends and going about their business,” Judge Brimer said.

Judge Brimer also said mobile phone footage “shows clearly the fear, panic and distress caused by you to those present.”

Atem came to Australia as a refugee in 2006 at the age of seven from South Sudan with two siblings.

He is a permanent resident and has moved many times between Dandenong, Noble Park and Pakenham with family. After his grandmother died three years ago Atem had a “brief period of homelessness” and began drinking.

The court heard Atem had been on a Youth Supervision Order in 2017 following charges of theft of motor vehicle, armed robbery and failure to answer bail.

Atem was jailed for five years.

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