An 18 year old P-Plater pleaded not guilty to careless driving. Criminal-Lawyer-Perth mounted a strong defence and after a one-day trial our client was acquitted of the charge and court costs paid by the State. The facts of the case were pretty straightforward. A young couple drove to a fast food restaurant in a northern Perth suburb. In the course of parking his vehicle the accused asked his then girlfriend, Ms X, to get out of the vehicle to see whether he was correctly positioned within the parking bay lines. Whilst standing alongside the front passenger window Ms X noted that the driver’s side rear of the vehicle was over the line. The driver asked Ms X to stand on the path in front of the vehicle and guide him as he attempted to manoeuver the vehicle into the parking bay.
Ms X moved to the front of the vehicle standing about 3m from the bonnet. What happened next was unthinkable. The vehicle jumped forward crashing into Ms X and slamming her through a glass window. She suffered severe fractures to one of her legs and bruising and grazing to most parts of her head and body. The vehicle actually travelled to a point where Ms X was trapped under the front bumper bar. Several onlookers and the driver helped Ms X from under the vehicle. Ms X was conveyed by ambulance to hospital where she later made a full recovery.
Police were soon at the scene and charged the driver with Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm under section 59A Road Traffic Act 1974. The penalties if convicted include imprisonment for 3 years or a fine of 720 penalty units, and in any event, the court convicting the person must order their licence disqualification for a period of at least 3 months.
The driver came to see us at criminal-lawyer-perth to discuss his options after already seeing two other law firms who both tried to convince the driver to plead guilty. The driver was a first time offender and there was no alcohol or drugs involved and therefore imprisonment was unlikely. He would face a fine and licence disqualification which would negatively impact upon his prospects of keeping his recently acquired job in the mining industry. What would have dogged the young man was difficulties getting insurance for any future vehicles without having to pay exorbitant premiums.
We listened to what the driver said happened, we visited the crash site and took photographs and measurements, and we interviewed Ms X. It turned out that the driver was at all material times looking over his left shoulder when the car lurched forward. On this alone we advised the driver to plead not guilty. Upon reading the trial brief containing statements from various onlookers it was clear to us that the charge of Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm would not succeed for the prosecution.
Negotiations with the Prosecution
What followed were several calls to police prosecutors stating our concerns as to whether Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm could be made out. Of course the medical evidence supported the conclusion that Ms X suffered Bodily Harm, but the question for trial was whether the driver drove dangerously in the lead up to running into Ms X. The police prosecutors eventually agreed and deducted the charge to one of Careless Driving under section 59BA Road Traffic Act 1974 .
Evidence At Trial
Prosecutors called Ms X to give evidence first during which she set out the basics of what had occurred followed by her injuries and what she had to endure during her recovery process. Our firm cross examined her and in a nutshell she said that just before the car hit her, she noticed the driver looking over his left shoulder and holding the steering wheel with his right hand, his left had appeared to be draped over the front passenger seat. Another two witnesses under cross examination said that they momentarily saw the vehicle’s reversing lights come on seconds before they saw the car go forward.
The presiding Magistrate accepted that the driver was taking all due precautions in attempting to better align his vehicle in the parking bay. The Magistrate acquitted the driver of careless driving. The prosecution was ordered to pay the driver’s legal costs.
Dr Marc Saupin, Legal Practitioner Director, Criminal Law Barrister and Solicitor