An unlicensed young mother who had used drugs before she crashed her car, killing her two-year-old daughter, has been sentenced to a maximum of three years in jail, with a judge describing the case as one of the most tragic he had ever encountered.
Tori Shipman, now 21, feel asleep at the wheel as she drove west along the New England Highway towards the Hunter Valley region in August 2015.
Her car crashed into a concrete pylon and her daughter, Jannali, who she had allowed to sit in the front passenger seat instead of in her baby carrier, was thrown through the passenger side window and died.
Delivering his sentence in the Downing Centre District Court on Thursday, Acting Judge Norman Delaney said that Shipman had suffered an "indescribable tragedy" and questioned what further punishment could be delivered to somebody in her situation.
"I have done, listened to, appeared in, thousands of cases involving personal injury claims," Acting Judge Delaney said.
"The facts and circumstances of this case would be in the top one per cent of the tragic circumstances that I have ever encountered."
Backdated to include the nearly 13 months she has already spent in custody, Shipman will be eligible for parole in March next year.
Shipman pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, admitting that she was sleep deprived and had smoked cannabis and used ice before getting behind the wheel.
At the time of the crash, she was serving sentences for other offences and her learner's permit had been disqualified for three months for driving unaccompanied.
Acting Judge Delaney outlined Shipman's difficult and dysfunctional childhood in northern NSW, including her exposure to domestic violence, sexual abuse, criminal offending and drug use.
From a young age she had learnt to fend for herself, and she had started using cannabis from the age 14 and later ice because it made her feel like "like nothing in the world mattered".
"The court should not overlook the fact that the offender's life had been a tragedy from start to finish," Mr Delaney said.
"She was a person who one could describe as coming from a life and childhood relationships that few in our community could imagine experiencing."
Mr Delaney said the effect the death of her child would have had on Shipman was "inconceivable", noting how she was seen screaming hysterically at the scene of the crash.
"It is always easy to have opinions about what is the correct sentence when one doesn't have the responsibility of actually imposing the sentence," Mr Delaney said.
"The court has found this an extremely difficult sentencing exercise because of its effect on those who were the closest people to the offender at that time."
Shipman also wrote a letter to the judge apologising for what had happened.
"The choices I have made have not only affected myself but people I love more than anything in the world," she wrote in the letter.
"My life has changed drastically in a way I can never explain."
Outside the court, Women In Prison Advocacy Network president Kat Armstrong said that Shipman was readying herself for a much harsher sentence.
"I don't think she will ever get over this ordeal. Ever," Ms Armstrong said.