Driver Succeeds Against Police In Traffic Prosecution. NSW Police Ordered To Pay Costs.

Mr K was traveling along Hilltop Road in accordance with the applicable speed limit of 50km/hr. Without warning, Mr K’s vehicle suddenly veered to the left and collided with another vehicle on the road.

Mr K was adamant that it was a mechanical defect which led to the accident rather than his own negligent conduct. Mr K’s steering wheel violently turned to the left. He tried to correct the steering, but the mechanical failure overpowered his manual efforts to straighten the vehicle. There was no other conceivable explanation for the collision.

Mr K was interviewed by Police about the incident at his residence. However, Mr K’s English was very poor. The officer in charge of the investigation directed a family member to assist with the interview by translating. The family member was not a duly qualified interpreter. As a result, Mr K’s assertion that a mechanical defect caused the accident was lost in translation and did not appear in the Police Officer’s notebook.

After the Police interview Mr K did not hear from the Police for a significant period of time and reasonably presumed that no further action would be taken. Accordingly, he made arrangements to dispose of the vehicle.

Approximately 5 months after the subject incident, Police charged Mr K with Negligent Driving Occasioning Grievous Bodily Harm. That is when Mr K decided to obtain advice from Parramatta City Legal.

In preparing the case it became evident that an expert mechanical engineer’s report would be necessary to substantiate our client’s mechanical defect defence. Unfortunately though, by that time, the vehicle had been disposed of and there was no way of substantiating the defence. A different tact had to be taken by Parramatta City Legal. Attention was then focused on the improper technique adopted by Police in interviewing Mr K. We found that the method was in breach of the NSW Police Investigations Code of Conduct. According to the Code, all interviews with non-English speaking witnesses must be carried out with the assistance of a duly qualified interpreter.

It was argued that because Mr K’s relative was not qualified, an inaccurate statement was recorded by the investigating officer which eventually formed the basis for the charge being laid against Mr K. It was also submitted on Mr K’s behalf that because it took so long for the Police to press charges, Mr K lost the opportunity of having his vehicle inspected by an appropriate mechanic to provide expert evidence on the alleged defect. On those bases, representations were made to the Court to have the charge dismissed. The Court agreed and Mr K was free of all charges laid against him in connection with the incident.

In the circumstances Parramatta City Legal formed the view that it was unfair that Mr K should have to bear the costs of his defence and so an application was made for the Police to pay his legal costs. It was submitted that the investigation was poisoned from the start as a result of the Police Officer’s improper investigative methods. The charges should never have been laid against Mr K. The Court agreed and awarded Mr K all his legal costs on the basis that the investigation was conducted in an improper manner pursuant to section 214(1)(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

The case demonstrates Parramatta City Legal’s ability to think laterally and never give up a client’s case even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.