Father spared jail after buggy rollover killed two-year-old son

The court, sitting at Wodonga, heard Browne had purchased the two-seater off-road Polaris buggy, with roll cage and seat belts, in June 2020. At the time, a salesperson had explained the safety features, including a recommendation that helmets be worn.

While there was no law mandating the wearing of helmets at that time, inside the buggy were stickers warning of the risk of death from a rollover and signs advising riders not to exceed the two-person seating capacity.

The court heard that Browne placed Lincoln on his knee and drove the buggy with one hand.Credit:

The court heard that on December 25, 2020, Browne climbed onto the buggy and sat on top of the seatbelt, which had already been clipped in, in breach of safety warnings, before advising his sister to put hers on.

He then placed Lincoln on his knee and drove the buggy with one hand.

Browne performed several burnouts and drove back up the driveway, before returning to the paddock to do another when the buggy overturned, fatally crushing Lincoln.

The father of two was arrested at the scene and taken to Wodonga police station, where he admitted becoming complacent with the safety warnings after about 20 hours of driving experience in the buggy.

Browne was originally charged with the more serious offence of culpable driving before pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death and conduct endangering another person, which carry maximum sentences of 10 and five years in prison.

“Such complacency had brought devastating consequences on you,” Cahill said.

The court heard Browne – who operates a home building business – was heavily involved in his local community, including sporting clubs, with those closest to him calling him hardworking and caring.

Cahill also revealed that Browne and his wife had previously lost twin girls who were stillborn.

He said psychological reports showed Browne was deeply remorseful and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

His father-in-law said Browne would carry the demons of the accident for life.

Cahill convicted and sentenced Browne to a three-year community correction order with 250 hours of unpaid community work.

Browne’s licences and permits held under the Road Safety Act were cancelled and he was disqualified from driving for 18 months.

“You built a playground next to your house in memory of your son. In my view you are likely to never reoffend,” Cahill said.

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