Thursday, June 13, 2024

Fathers of Hunter Valley bus crash victims win reform to plea deal protocol

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Fathers of the victims killed in the Hunter Valley bus crash have gained support for their suggested reforms to plea deals after the driver had his charges downgraded.

Brett Andrew Button, the driver responsible for the deaths of 10 wedding guests last year, had 10 counts of manslaughter downgraded in exchange for a confession to dangerous driving causing death.

Matt Mullen and Adam Bray, fathers of victims Rebecca Mullen and Zach Bray, said the plea deal blindsided them.

Matt Mullen and Adam Bray, fathers of victims Rebecca Mullen and Zach Bray. (Nine)

Together, the pair met with Attorney-General Michael Daley today to discuss why the families were not consulted before the plea deal was made.

“The harsh reality for us today is there is no intervention, there is no reinstating manslaughter charges,” Bray said.

“Moving forward, it’s about communication with the [Department of Public Prosecution] in the future for other families in our situation,” Mullen said.

Premier Chris Minns today said he expected victims to be heard before deals were done, signalling support for the draft reforms.

“I do have concerns about it having spoken to some of the dads,” he said.

Brett Button leaves Newcastle Court flanked by family and his legal team on April 3, 2024
Brett Button will face court next on Thursday.  (Peter Stoop/ SMH)

“The attorney and myself insist that victims and victims families are spoken to and consulted before these decisions are made.”

The fathers are now working with the attorney-general to draft protocols, called the “Hunter Valley Charter”, to improve communication from the Department of Public Prosecution to victims. 

“That’s a legacy for our children. That’s a very small victory today,” Bray said.

The maximum penalty for dangerous driving occasioning death is 10 years in jail while manslaughter attracts a maximum of 25 years.

Button will face court next on Thursday. 

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