The Legal Consequences of Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death in NSW

 

It is reported that 65-year-old Timothy Scollary drove his car too far to the left of the road right before fatally colliding into and knocking a cyclist off his bicycle.

Police are of the view that Scollary was travelling at about 76 and 87km/h in a 100km/h speed zone in the moments he lost concentration and steered his car too far to the left-hand side before crashing into cyclist and father of two, Michael Grinter.

Judge Trevor Wraight said, “what is clear is that you lost concentration for a period of time long enough to allow you to drift into the far-left position as described when you struck Mr Grinter.”

It is reported that Scollary had consumed a couple of glasses of wine with family earlier in the afternoon before getting into his car to drive back to Melbourne.

As he veered off-course and collided into Mr Grinter on Fogartys Gap Rd, South Bendigo on the 4 December 2018 at about 6:30pm, the court was told that following the crash Scollary’s initial reaction wasn’t to check up on Mr Grinter or to call for help, ambulance or police.

Instead, in the moments immediately after the crash, Scollary remained standing next to his car and called his sister.

The court was told that he also texted his sister, “Call me now”, “I have killed a cyclist”, “A very good lawyer would be handy.”

Later, Scollary also texted “real reality is the 0.05 level”.

Ambulance was then called by Scollary’s sister only after she had a phone conversation with him.

As this was taking place, people from the public approached in an attempt to help Mr Grinter.

Unfortunately, as two females attempted to conduct CPR, Mr Grinter had died.

Witnesses say that while people had approached Mr Grinter, Scollary remained on the phone and was heard saying, “I’ll be in jail… I’ve had a few.”

The court heard that on one occasion as motorists approached, Scollary had said to one, “F*%k off, I’ve called my sister, he’s dead.”

Scollary was subsequently charged with dangerous driving occasioning death, failing to provide assistance and failing a blood alcohol test. In a subsequent reading, his BAC was 0.067.

Judge Wraight sentenced Scollary to 3-years imprisonment upon pleas of guilty being entered to the charges by him.

Of the 3-years prison sentence, the minimum period he is required to spend in full-time custody is 18-months before he’s eligible to be released on parole.

His Honour while accepting Scollary’s remorse and insight into his behaviour, believed that he was nonetheless capable of rationally deciding to call his sister as he seemed more concerned for himself rather than the cyclist.

As Scollary stood in court, Judge Wraight said, “In this instance it seems inexplicable that you were aware of the fact that you had struck a cyclist and would have been well aware that he could be seriously injured, however you did not approach him to ascertain the situation or offer assistance.”

“More disturbingly, you did not immediately call triple zero for assistance and some 10-15 minutes passed before another person attended to Mr Grinter.”

For more details on this topic, contact our specialist criminal defence lawyers to arrange a free consultation.

The Legal Consequences of Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death in NSW

Section 52A(1) Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) prescribes a maximum penalty of 10-years imprisonment and automatic licence disqualification of 3-years with the discretion for the court to reduce this to 12-months minimum.

Under section 52A(1), a person is guilty of dangerous driving causing death in NSW if:

  1. The accused person drove a vehicle; and
  2. The vehicle was involved in an impact occasioning death of another person; and
  3. The accused person at the time of impact was driving the vehicle either:
    1. Under the influence of alcohol or drug(s); or
    2. At a speed dangerous to another person; or
    3. In a manner dangerous to another person.

What does dangerous driving mean under the law here? This is where the driving resulted in a real or potential danger to the public.

Under the law in NSW, in respect to a person guilty of dangerous driving causing death, the court is required to consider imposing a 3-years imprisonment sentence if the offenders conduct is considered to have a high degree of criminal responsibility in causing the death. This has been expressed in the case of R v Whyte [2002] NSWCCA.

There is a higher maximum penalty that applies to a person who commits this offence in circumstances of aggravation pursuant to section 52A(2)– imposing a maximum penalty of 14-years imprisonment.

What does circumstances of aggravation mean here? This includes circumstances where at the time of impact causing the death, the offender:

  1. Had the prescribed BAC present in his/her breath or blood; or
  2. Was driving at a speed exceeding 45km/h over the speed limit; or
  3. Was driving to escape a police pursuit; or
  4. Was driving in a situation his/her ability to drive was substantially impaired from a drug other than alcohol or combination of drugs and alcohol.

The law also provides a defence under section 52A(8) which will result in the charge being dismissed if:

  1. The death was not in any way attributed by the manner of the accused driving, speed at which the accused was driving or as a result alcohol or drugs (whichever is relevant to the actual charge); or
  2. Duress or Necessity; or
  3. Self-defence.

Click here for an outline on the penalties for negligent driving causing death in NSW.

As experienced traffic lawyers based in Sydney, we specialise in traffic law and offer fixed fees for most traffic cases. Our friendly team are available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Leading Criminal Lawyers in Sydney, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Criminal Courts.

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