Man gets more jail time over bride’s honeymoon death
Fri, Sep 18, 2009
SYDNEY, Sept 18, 2009 (AFP) – An American salesman who swam off as his new wife died on the ocean floor during a honeymoon diving trip will spend an extra six months in jail after a court upheld an appeal against his sentence.
Bubble-wrap salesman David “Gabe” Watson, 32, was sentenced in June to four-and-a-half years for manslaughter, but under a plea bargain all but 12 months of the term was suspended, a decision that sparked outrage.
Christina Watson, 26, died in October 2003 after getting into trouble while scuba diving at a wreck off the coast of northern Queensland state where the couple were spending their honeymoon..
She was pulled from the ocean floor by a dive instructor after her husband failed to inflate her buoyancy vest or remove weights to bring her to the surface, instead leaving her to sink as he went get help.
Queensland’s Attorney-General Cameron Dick appealed against the effective one-year jail term handed down to Watson, saying it was “manifestly unjust” and did not reflect the gravity of the case.
In a 2-1 decision, a court in Brisbane on Friday upheld the appeal, ruling that Watson’s sentence will only be suspended after 18 months.
But while one of the judges said Watson deserved to be jailed for longer, the court did not agree to make him serve two and half years as Dick had requested.
Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said he was unable to impose a heavier sentence as he and his two colleagues could not agree on an appropriate sentence.
De Jersey said Watson deserved twice as much time behind bars because he contributed to his wife’s death in “criminally derelict circumstances”.
“The respondent pleaded guilty not just to causing his wife’s death negligently, but criminally negligently,” the judge wrote.
“And that warrants this court’s at least doubling the penalty effectively visited upon him by the sentencing court.”
But Judge John Muir dismissed the appeal and fellow Judge Richard Chesterman agreed to increase the jail time by only six months.
Defence lawyer Martin Burns argued that his client had made a split-second decision to seek help on the surface, which had in hindsight been wrong.