SMH: Jurors urged to ‘put emotion aside’ in police officer trial over crash

A police officer whose highway patrol vehicle crashed into a car driven by a Sydney grandmother had a “faulty memory” of the collision and his evidence about activating flashing lights before the impact should be rejected, the Crown has submitted in his trial.

Senior Constable Harry Thomas Little is standing trial in the NSW District Court on a charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm over the incident at Cronulla in Sydney’s south on September 5, 2018.

The court has heard Mr Little’s marked Ford Falcon was travelling at 135 km/h in the seconds before it hit a Mercedes driven by Gai Vieira, who was turning right onto The Kingsway. Mr Little had braked before the impact, taking the car’s speed down to 87.5km/h.

Mr Little had been pursuing a Volkswagen driver suspected of using a mobile phone as part of a NSW road safety operation. The court has heard the crash left Ms Vieira with a severe brain injury.

On Tuesday the Crown and defence delivered their closing addresses to the jury.

The Crown has submitted Mr Little had activated neither his flashing lights nor siren before the crash, while the defence has said the police officer had an honest and reasonable belief his lights were on.

Prosecutor Carl Young said Mr Little “may have an honest belief today that he activated his lights”, but submitted that this was based on a “faulty memory”.

He said “the Crown case is not that Mr Little is lying” and he was “doing his best to reconstruct this collision” but he was “demonstrably wrong” based on other evidence.

He submitted that even if the lights were on the jury would be satisfied there had been a serious breach of the proper management and control of the police car, and the breach was so serious it created a real danger to people nearby.

Mr Young said it was not in dispute that Mr Little was a person of good character and “no one intended for this collision to occur” but the jury was obliged to “put sympathy and emotion to one side” in reaching their verdict.

Defence barrister Hament Dhanji, SC, submitted to the jury that “the simple fact of an accident and the simple fact of serious harm do not prove that the person or persons involved were driving in a manner dangerous to the public”.

“You don’t work backwards,” Mr Dhanji said. He noted Mr Little was in a “fully marked” police vehicle.

He said a serious breach of the proper management and control of the police car was not proved by showing Mr Little exceeded the speed limit, and police were allowed to drive above the speed limit to stop vehicles.

“The evidence is that Mrs Vieira pulled out unexpectedly,” Mr Dhanji said.

He said “the fact is, accidents occur” and they could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Mr Little was driving dangerously.

The trial continues.

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