Families of Exclusive Brethren church members killed in a car crash wanted leniency for the driver

The victims' families have forgiven Russell Stewart.
The victims' families have forgiven Russell Stewart. Photo credit: Supplied

The families of three Exclusive Brethren church members killed in a car crash wanted leniency for the driver.

Northland man Russell Stewart had eight passengers in his five-seater Mitsubishi Triton when he crashed into a tree near Dargaville in 2016.

The accident claimed the lives of his wife Susanna Stewart, 48, daughter Sadie, 16, and fellow church member James Wearmouth, 18.

Stewart pleaded guilty in January to causing the deaths, and was sentenced to community detention for four months. He was placed under curfew, supervision and disqualified from driving for a year.

Before sentencing, the lawyer acting for the two families pleaded for leniency, in a letter obtained under the Official Information Act by NZME.

In the letter, Grant Illingworth QC wrote that Stewart's loss of his wife and daughter would be punishment "far beyond anything that the law could now impose upon him".

Mr Illingworth claimed that Stewart was "suffering from stress as a result of certain personal circumstances he was going through at the time", and the tragedy had "driven Russell to the brink of despair".

The letter released to NZME goes on to state that the two families have forgiven Stewart, in accordance with their Christian beliefs.

Newshub.