SA crash driver gets 10-year supervision

Tim DorninAAP
A man involved in a crash that killed a police officer will be subject to mental health supervision.
Camera IconA man involved in a crash that killed a police officer will be subject to mental health supervision. Credit: AAP

An Adelaide man who drove in a "wild and dangerous" manner before a road crash that claimed two lives, including that of a senior police officer, will be subject to ongoing mental health supervision for 10 years.

Detective Chief Superintendent Joanne Shanahan, 55, and Tania McNeill, 53, were killed in a three-car collision in April 2020 when Harrison Kitt drove through a red light at more than 160 km/h.

He pleaded not guilty to two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and one count of causing harm and was found not guilty because of mental incompetence.

Prosecutors conceded he was suffering a psychotic episode at the time of the crash.

Kitt will not serve jail time but be subject to mental health and parole board supervision while living with his parents, with the District Court on Tuesday setting that period, known as a limiting term, at 10 years.

Publishing his reasons, Judge Paul Muscat said that before the crash Kitt was seen driving back and forth onto the wrong side of the road as well as driving around a traffic island at high speed.

"Witnesses reported that when he was driving in the wrong lane he made no effort to slow down or avoid oncoming traffic," the judge said.

"Those who observed the collision described an explosion of flames, dust and debris."

Judge Muscat said by the time emergency services arrived both Supt Shanahan and Mrs McNeil were found dead in their cars.

"Two totally innocent and much-loved women lost their lives that afternoon," he said.

"Given the wild and dangerous state of the defendant's driving throughout the day and the narrow near-missed collisions, the carnage that eventuated was tragically inevitable."

The judge said Kitt had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and at the time of the crash was experiencing his first severe manic episode with grandiose and bizarre delusions.

He said that while bipolar disorder was a lifelong condition and the part-time student remained guilt-ridden over the crash, he had a good long-term prognosis with the correct professional treatment and support.

For the period of his limiting term, Kitt was also banned from driving and consuming alcohol and from visiting a number of Adelaide shopping centres and other stores frequented by family members of the crash victims.

Outside the court on Tuesday, Supt Shanahan's husband Peter said Kitt's limiting term was substantial.

"I just hope that he gets better and never causes any more angst in the community. That's the most important thing," he said.

"The reality is I can't do anything about what's happened. If I forgive him, that lets me move on with my life."

He also called for all people to do everything possible to help family members, friends or acquaintances suffering from mental health issues to get help, at the same time proposing a lifetime driving ban for people who claimed lives after choosing to drive in such a manner.

But Supt Shanahan's sister Georgie Steiner said the court's decision was "like another stab in the heart".

"This does not feel like true justice to us. Joanne deserved a better outcome than this," she said.

Get the latest news from in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails