Calls for drink-driver Queensland mayor to quit after meeting crash victims’ families

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP</span>
Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP

Less than a fortnight ago, Redland mayor, Karen Williams, stood where Matthew Field and Kate Leadbetter were killed by a drunk and drug-affected driver last Australia Day.

Holding copies of a petition alongside the grief-stricken parents of Matthew Field, Williams called for tougher youth sentencing.

Now, the Liberal National party mayor is facing calls to resign after crashing her own car into a tree east of Brisbane on Thursday night.

Williams admitted the crash occurred after she’d consumed “several glasses of wine” at a post-budget party.

Hours before the crash, Williams held a video meeting with the families of drink-driving victims including Judy Lindsay, whose daughter Hayley was killed by a drink-driver in 2009.

Lindsay said the mayor rang her in tears on Friday night to apologise.

“I just said, ‘I can’t have any contact with you any more. You can’t be doing the job you’re doing. I trusted you and this is what you’ve done’,” Lindsay told Nine’s Today program on Monday.

“She’s got to go … she has no respect for anybody in this community by doing what she’s done.”

Related: Crime scene clean-up: a victim’s family wants Queenslanders to be spared the trauma

Police are awaiting blood analysis before finalising their investigation into the matter, and no charges have been laid.

Research shows that from a 0.02 blood alcohol concentration, a person’s cognitive processing starts to be affected, according to Prof Grant Devilly, a clinical psychologist at Griffith University.

“[Generally], the more people drink, the more people underestimate how drunk they are and overestimate how drunk everyone else is,” Devilly told Guardian Australia.

“In general terms, that could explain as to why someone who has been drinking … an amount that’s above the limit might feel like they’re able to drive when they’re actually impaired.”

Devilly said the higher amount of alcohol people drink, the lower their inhibitory control becomes and the more risks they take.

“There’s a reason we have these rules. It’s not just arbitrary. People don’t react as well and they drive very poorly the more drunk they are.”

Williams has since stepped down from the Brisbane Olympics board and apologised for “a serious error of judgment”. But she’s refused to resign as mayor, saying it would be a “rash decision”.

“I am deeply regretful for my actions,” Williams said at the weekend. “I made a mistake, I will learn from that mistake, and I will continue to serve my community as I have for the last 18 years”.

Asked whether Williams should resign, Queensland’s police minister, Mark Ryan, said: “Speaking generally, if someone makes a bad choice, if someone breaks the law there should be consequences.”

Federal opposition leader, Petter Dutton, said drink-driving was “completely unacceptable” and Williams needed to set a strong example “in terms of actions, accountabilities and consequences”.

Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said Williams had made a “big miscalculation”.

“If you want to sit there and talk with victims who have paid … the ultimate price of losing their loved ones … you’ve got to live up to your responsibility when you’re in public office,” he told Today.

Queensland opposition leader, David Crisafulli, said he has “zero tolerance for drunk-driving”, while Redland councillor Paul Bishop said he could not “support defence of people who engage in illegal and dangerous behaviour”.

“Our son was driving on Wellington Street, Cleveland last Thursday night, just minutes after an alleged intoxicated driver crossed 4 lanes of traffic and ran off the road into a tree,” he wrote on Facebook.

“Around 23 hours later, he realised it was the mayor of Redland city whose reckless choice could have changed both our family’s lives forever.”

Related: Victims of crime seek tougher youth sentencing in Queensland, but could that make things worse?

Councillor Adelia Berridge said on Facebook she has previously raised complaints about “booze parties” including to the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland.

But councillor Wendy Boglary, who is calling for Williams to resign, denied claims that Redland city council had a “drinking culture”.

Williams currently serves as a director of the Local Government Association of Queensland. A LGAQ spokesperson said while “elected members are rightfully held to a higher standard by the people they represent”, the matter is with police.

Guardian Australia has contacted Williams for comment.

Additional reporting by AAP

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