M3 tragedy: community service for driver

ct johan crous 3209 HOUSE ARREST: Johan Crous and his wife Samantha outside the Athlone Magistrates Court on Friday where he was sentenced to three years correctional supervision and house arrest for the death of 24-year-old Lauren Devine. Photo: Ryan Jacobs

Leila Samodien

Justice Writer

FOUR years after motorist Lauren Devine died when a rock smashed through her window on the M3, the man held responsible for her death is today expected to begin his sentence.

Johan Crous was sentenced to three years of correctional supervision in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

This includes 24-hour house arrest and 16 hours of community service a month, as well as a full ban on taking alcohol or drugs, unless prescribed by a doctor.

Crous, who was convicted of culpable homicide, was to report to Correctional Services today to start his sentence.

Crous’s car crashed into the guardrail separating the lanes on the M3 highway and a rock, or object, which was dislodged by the crash, smashed through Lauren Devine’s windscreen, killing her.

Crous and his wife had been drinking beer before the crash, although a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol was subsequently withdrawn.

But in the meantime, he is still fighting his conviction.

Immediately after his sentencing, magistrate Heather Paulse refused an application by Crous’s defence lawyer, Keith Gess, for leave to appeal against his conviction in a higher court.

Gess told the Cape Times that he would now petition the Western Cape High Court directly for permission.

Paulse said that there was “no sentence that will justify the loss and suffering” caused by 24-year-old Devine’s death.

It was also clear that devastation occurred on the roads “daily if not hourly” because of negligent acts.

Crous had to be punished in a manner that would deter him and others, said Paulse.

She also weighed up the family’s demand for retribution against Crous’s personal circumstances.

He was a first offender, employed and had a young family and a mother that he was close to.

Gess, said Paulse, had argued that Crous be looked at as a “fallen angel rather than an incorrigible rogue”.

But she had found no evidence that Crous was a fallen angel.

“Instead, what I find is evidence of a remorseless man who does not take responsibility for his actions,” she said.

Just before passing sentence, Paulse said it was not always a correct perception that direct imprisonment favoured the victim’s family, while correctional supervision was more skewed towards the accused.

Referring to case law, she said correctional supervision was no lenient punishment and could be tough.

She warned Crous that if he didn’t comply with provisions of his sentence, he would face being jailed.

But Crous’s punishment came as little comfort for Devine’s mother Allison, who walked out of the courtroom when he applied for leave to appeal. “He believes he’s done nothing wrong. That’s why I walked out,” she said.

She said her presence at every court appearance wasn’t a “vengeance mission” but rather for justice for her daughter and to create awareness among motorists about the dangers of speeding and drinking.

“I didn’t want him to go to jail. He has a wife and a family. But he got off lightly because he doesn’t take any responsibility for what he’s done,” said Allison Devine.

She said she would now have to start building a new life without Lauren.

“I feel like I’ve been thrown out of one lifetime and into another. It’s been catastrophic for me,” she said, vowing to see the case through to the end.

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