THE STORY

Last week, a NSW highway patrol officer was sentenced a community correction order after being convicted of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm. The court orders include license suspension for a period of 12 months.

On last Friday, the NSW District Court Judge Huggett handed down the court decision to spare the police officer, Harry Thomas Little jail time over the NSW road crash that occurred in 2018. It was the horror crash in Cronulla that could have been avoided if the police officer had activated his siren. Officer Harry Little was driving nearly twice the speed limit down Cronulla’s Kingsway before he crashed into Gai Viera’s car as she turned onto the road. Gai Vieira was left with a serious life-long brain injury after the speeding police vehicle smashed into her car, leaving the grandmother on life support.

WHAT IS NEGLIGENT DRIVING CAUSING GREVIOUS BODILY HARM?

The offence of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm is found under section 117 of the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW). Provision 117 states that a person can be charged with this offence where the driver has been negligent and, as a result of the driver’s negligence, an injury was caused to another person that amounts to grievous bodily harm.

A number of circumstances are taken into consideration by the court when determining if an offence of negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm has been committed. These circumstances include but are not limited to:

(a) the nature, condition and use of the road on which the offence is alleged to have been committed,

(b) the amount of traffic that actually is at the time, or which might reasonably be expected to be, on the road,

(c) any obstructions or hazards on the road (including, for example, broken down or crashed vehicles, fallen loads and accident or emergency scenes).

In addition, the court must also be satisfied that the negligent nature of the driving caused grievous bodily harm to another person. This offence cannot be established if the nature of the driving was not harmful to people around or that the level/gravity of the harm does not amount to a “grievous bodily harm”.

The term grievous bodily harm is defined under section 117 of the act to include any permanent or serious disfigurement. This definition is an inclusive and vague definition, and as a result, the common law continues to play a role in determining what injuries can amount to grievous bodily harm. In the DPP v Smith, the judge held that “grievous Bodily harm” means what the words convey in their ordinary and natural meaning. “Bodily Harm” needs no explanation, and” grievous” means no more and no less than “really serious”. In Haoui v R, the court held that grievous bodily harm does not require that the injuries are permanent or that the consequences of the injury are long-lasting or life-threatening, but does require that the injury is a really serious one.

Therefore, in order to establish the offence of negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm, the prosecution must establish beyond reasonable doubt that the injuries amount to grievous bodily harm and are in fact, caused as a result of the negligent driving of the defendant.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH THIS OFFENCE

It is important to seek legal advice if charged with this offence to see if the allegation can be successfully defended. The evidence pertaining to a charge of this nature needs to be carefully reviewed by a criminal defence lawyer to ascertain whether the injury does in fact amount to the legal definition of grievous bodily harm   and, if so, whether they were caused by the driver’s negligence.

A specialist criminal lawyer with extensive experience in the field will be able to advise you regarding the possibility of any defence that can be available to you or if there is any room for negotiations with NSW Police relating to the gravity of the offence. You can contact our office on 02 9893 1889 or visit https://www.nationalcriminallawyers.com.au for more information about your options.

If you or a loved one have been charged with negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm, get in touch with one of our criminal defence lawyers in order to ensure your case is heard according to the law.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?

This offence carries serious penalties, and possible terms of imprisonment, the most likely result is a criminal conviction. In the circumstances of a fist time offender, a licence disqualification is mandatory following a form of behaviour bond.

The penalties for negligent driving causing grievous bodily harm for a first-time offence in comparison to second or subsequent offending are as follows:

Penalties First Offence Second & subsequent offence
Maximum fine imposed by court $2,200 $3,300
Maximum imprisonment term 9 months

 

12 months

 

Minimum disqualification

 

12 months

 

2 years

 

Maximum disqualification

 

Unlimited – based on court discretion

 

Unlimited – based on court discretion

 

Disqualification in the absence of a specific court order – automatic period

 

3 years

 

5 years

 

 

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