Pregnant woman sobs as husband jailed for killing their son in Christmas crash

A pregnant woman sobbed in court as her husband was jailed for six months on appeal over the death of their two-year-old son during Christmas celebrations in Victoria’s north.

Christopher Browne, 33, was taken away from the Court of Appeal in handcuffs on Friday after three judges overturned an earlier decision by a County Court judge to spare him prison time over the fatal 2020 joyride when an all-terrain buggy rolled.

Christopher Browne (centre) arrives at the Court of Appeal with his wife, family and lawyers on Friday.Credit:Erin Pearson

The Director of Public Prosecutions fought to have Browne jailed over the death, arguing the noncustodial sentence he received for the crash that killed son Lincoln was “manifestly inadequate”.

Prosecutors argued Browne ignored warnings when he placed two-year-old Lincoln on his knee without a seatbelt and performed doughnuts in his ATV buggy, until he lost control of the vehicle and it rolled at a Barnawartha North property.

Lincoln was crushed under the vehicle and died at the scene.

Court of Appeal Justices Emilios Kyrou, Terry Forrest and Maree Kennedy granted the DPP’s appeal on Friday and found despite Browne, 33, being of good character – and his wife pregnant with their child – his moral culpability was high.

Christopher Browne was doing doughnuts in his buggy when it rolled and killed two-year-old son Lincoln on Christmas Day 2020.

The judges said a strikingly similar case in 2016 resulted in a man being jailed for three years for the same charge of dangerous driving causing death, and resentenced Browne to 15 months jail with a non-parole period of six months.

“We agree with the Director’s submission that only a sentence of a term of imprisonment with a non-parole period is open in the present case,” the judges said.

“[Browne was] aware of the warnings about the dangers involved … he deliberately did not heed the warnings, disregarded the safety measures and embarked on inherently dangerous conduct.”

Following the resentencing, Browne and his family sobbed and embraced in court before he was led into custody.

Lincoln was on his dad’s knee when the buggy rolled. The toddler was crushed underneath the vehicle and died.

In August last year, County Court Judge Michael Cahill sentenced Browne to a three-year community correction order with 250 hours of community service, after noting he now lived with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Browne bought the two-seater off-road Polaris buggy, with roll cage and seatbelts, in June 2020, the court heard previously. At the time, a salesperson explained the safety features, including a recommendation that helmets be worn.

On Christmas Day 2020, Browne climbed onto the buggy and sat on top of the seatbelt, which had already been clipped in – in breach of safety warnings – and advised his sister to put her seatbelt on.

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

The fatal crash happened at a rural property in Barnawartha North.Credit:Nine News

Browne performed several burnouts before 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.

At the time of his sentence, Cahill noted Browne had suffered enormously over his involvement in his son’s death and found that was a greater punishment than any court could ever impose.

Cahill found Browne’s complacency brought devastating consequences on the hardworking and caring father, who was heavily involved in his community and sporting clubs.

Psychological reports indicated Browne was deeply remorseful and had since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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

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