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Vic driver spared jail over mate's death

AAP logoAAP 10/08/2016 By Melissa Iaria

A Melbourne P-plater who killed his best mate who was riding in his ute tray when it rolled on a rural property has been spared jail.

Matthew Chamberlain, 24, was at a friend's place drinking and having fun on the night they decided to check on some horses at the Doreen property in 2014.

He drove his ute with three mates in the tray but when he oversteered suddenly the ute rolled and fatally injured his best friend Jesse Berry, 21.

Chamberlain and two friends tried to revive Mr Berry, who had been sitting on a tool box in the rear of the ute, unrestrained.

County Court Judge Lisa Hannan accepted Chamberlain's deep remorse.

"You will carry a heavy burden for the rest of your life in having caused the death of your best friend," she said.

Chamberlain pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

The judge found while Chamberlain had an estimated blood alcohol reading of 0.068 at the time, drinking nor speed played a significant role in the incident, which was caused by tragic driver error.

Mr Berry's family also supported the accused man - who was now living with Mr Berry's grandfather - and did not blame him over the death.

In a statement to the court, the victim's brother Tristan Berry said: "Not only did I lose my little brother that night, but so did Matt."

Defence barrister Russ Hammill said Chamberlain and Mr Berry were "as good as brothers".

"This is just tragedy from top to tail," he said.

Mr Hammill said travelling in the tray of a ute was a "daily occurrence of country life", but Judge Hannan said the same safety standards applied across the whole of the state.

"What I've seen sitting in this court for the last 10 years is young men losing their lives in the exact same circumstance," she said.

"The message must be clear and consistent.

"As drivers we all owe each other a responsibility."

The judge accepted Chamberlain was a man of good character who had suffered post-traumatic stress, flashbacks and depression in the aftermath of the incident.

She also praised the victim's family for their "courage and dignity".

Chamberlain was convicted and given a two-year community corrections order with 175 hours of community work.

He was also disqualified from driving for 18 months.

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