ACT News

Driver avoids jail after fatal car crash on the Monaro Highway

David Frank Cassar received a  a five-month suspended jail sentence after causing a fatal collision.
David Frank Cassar received a a five-month suspended jail sentence after causing a fatal collision. Photo: Louie Douvis

A Bermagui man has been handed a five-month suspended jail sentence after causing a fatal collision on the Monaro Highway during the ski season.

In August 2014 David Frank Cassar, 32, was driving his Toyota Hilux in heavy traffic at 100km/h when he turned momentarily to speak with his young daughter in the back seat.

His car, which was fitted with a bull bar and a raised chassis, collided with  the rear of a stationary Toyota Corolla at the intersection of Old Cooma Road in Royalla.

The passenger of the Corolla, a 25-year-old man, suffered brain damage and died in Canberra Hospital days later.

Magistrate Peter Dingwall, who sentenced Cassar in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday, said he likely would have been distracted for a period between three and seven seconds.

When sentencing Cassar, Mr Dingwall said he had proven his remorse and entered an early guilty plea, despite the defence and prosecution disagreeing on the facts of the case.

The prosecution had argued Cassar was using his phone at the time of the collision, although this was not accepted by Mr Dingwall.

Six members of the victim's family read victim impact statements to the court in mid-January.

The court heard the victim, whose name has not been published at his family's request, had been planning to marry his long-term partner, have children, and buy and renovate a home.

His partner described him as a kind, loving and amazing man. She said he had been a safe and considerate driver who would have hated to die at the hands of a distracted motorist.

The woman described seeing his "blank stare" and bloodied head after the accident, an image which continued to haunt her.

She told the court she now suffered from physical and mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety attacks.

She described how her "crippling despair" and overwhelming grief meant her life no longer had direction, goals, or plans.

The victim's parents also described the pride they had felt in seeing their son grow into a kind and dependable man. "He deserved a long and happy life," his mother said.

Mr Dingwall said there was no doubt the death of the man had caused grief and pain for his immediate family.

He said Cassar had also proven his "deep remorse" by offering to meet with the man's family to personally apologise. The meeting never took place.

The court heard Cassar was a respectful man who cared deeply for his daughter, turning down overseas job offers to remain by her side. Mr Dingwall acknowledged he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the collision, although this was not considered in sentencing.

In sentencing submissions, prosecutor Trent Hickey argued Cassar should be sentenced to a period of full-time imprisonment.

Mr Hickey argued it had not been a momentary lapse in concentration, but an "outrageous period of inattention" with a high degree of culpability.

Mr Hickey likened to estimated three to six second period at 100km/h to driving blindfolded for one-and-a-half football fields.

But defence barrister Jack Pappas argued his client deserved a suspended jail sentence given his demonstrated remorse and lack of prior convictions.

Cassar's driver's license was automatically suspended for three months and he was also ordered to undertake 400 hours of community service. He was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.

The matter will return to court in April to determine the payment of court costs.