A fatal car accident could land Tasmania’s top prosecutor in jail for up to a year.
Tasmania’s top prosecutor could face a year in jail after being found guilty of causing a woman’s death by negligent driving.
Director of public prosecutions Tim Ellis, 59, faces a maximum penalty of 12 months’ prison or a $1300 fine.
Ellis had pleaded not guilty to the charge after his Mercedes was involved in a collision on the Midland Highway between Hobart and Launceston in March last year.
Launceston woman Natalia Pearn, 27, was killed when her Toyota Corolla and Ellis’s car collided.
Magistrate Chris Webster rejected arguments that Ellis, who suffers from sleep apnoea, was asleep at the time of the collision.
“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he was consciously and voluntarily driving his vehicle when he crossed onto the wrong side of the road and continued to consciously and voluntarily drive on that side of the road until the collision or immediately prior to the point of impact,” Mr Webster said in a written decision.
The DPP, who has been suspended on full pay, was bailed to reappear for sentencing on July 22.
His lawyer Michael O’Farrell SC told the Hobart Magistrates Court an appeal would be lodged.
Ellis left the court without comment on the crutches he has needed since his leg was shattered in the accident.
Ms Pearn’s father Alan Pearn’s only comment to reporters was: “It’s not over yet.”
During the hearing in March, witnesses had told of a southbound black Mercedes travelling in an overtaking lane for oncoming traffic.
One, Sabina Van Ingen, told the court: “I said to my husband that he’s going to kill somebody.”
The court heard the car had rounded a sweeping bend on the highway shortly before the crash.
“It is inconceivable that a vehicle could be driven … onto the incorrect side of the road at 100km/h, maintain its position in that lane for 700 metres, and then round a sweeping bend, and continue on that road for a distance of between 300 and 800 metres whilst the driver was asleep,” Magistrate Webster wrote.
He said Ellis had been successfully treated for his apnoea, a condition which does not cause sudden sleep.
In the lead-up to the crash, he had been talking with his wife, changing his CD stacker and listening to the cricket as well as overtaking cars, Mr Webster said.
“Mr Ellis’s mind was active in the car,” he wrote.
Double white lines should have been obvious to Ellis, he said, and a lack of skid marks did not necessarily mean he’d failed to brake or swerve because of sleep.
“The defendant failed to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable and prudent driver should have exercised in the circumstances,” Mr Webster wrote.
Mr Webster agreed to hear the case after more senior colleagues disqualified themselves, saying they knew Ellis or his family too well.