Carlton occasional David Teague must be counting his blessings after he avoided a conviction for rendering an elderly woman a quadriplegic in a traffic accident last year.
Teague was driving an unfamiliar hoon wagon borrowed from a friend on June 18, 2006 at around 10:30am. He had just picked up his girlfriend, Hannah McNamara, after an early morning fun run. He was attempting to turn into McCutcheon Way, Collingwood but was going too fast and skidded out of control and mounted the curb on the opposite side of the road.
David Teague: "I'm glad with the result"
Source: News Corp.
Tragically, he plowed into a parked Corolla, in which an elderly woman was asleep. As a result of her severe injuries, she is now a quadriplegic. Teague was charged with careless driving.
Ford Falcon XR6 Ute: Similar model to the one driven by Teague
This week, he fronted up to the Melbourne Magistrates Court (AFL Division) to answer these charges. He pleaded not guilty, due to a supposed technical glitch: the floor mat "bridged" both the accelerator and the brake.
In a taped interview, Teague told police the car accelerated unexpectedly as he turned.
"As I've gone to take the turn, I've taken my foot off the brake and as I've taken my foot off the brake, the car has sort of accelerated as I've gone around the corner," he said. "I can remember trying to turn and I've thought to myself, "Can't turn'."
Ms McNamara told the hearing that as the car careered out of control she called out "David" and he replied "I can't" before colliding with the Corolla.
"It seemed like there was something wrong, he wasn't in control," Ms McNamara said.
Two mechanical experts gave contrasting evidence over the likelihood that the car's foot mat interfered with the accelerator and contributed to the crash. (Herald-Sun, 17/7/2007)
With this introduction of reasonable doubt by a paid expert witness, the court dismissed the charges:
Melbourne magistrate Gerard Bryant today found Teague not (not) guilty of careless driving.
"I find that there is a reasonable hypothesis consistent with innocence," he said.
"I can't exclude as a reasonable hypothesis that the floor-mat interfered with the proper operation of the brake and the accelerator pedals." (The Age, 18/7/2007)
What can I say? Very little, as it happens, thanks to our defamation and contempt of court laws. One's mind does wonder to the possibilities of other traffic accident cases where expensive expert witnesses could have created similar doubts in the minds of magistrates - except the defendant lacked the profile, connections and money of a professional footballer.
For the record, there was no evidence of alcohol playing a role. In all the reports we turned up, the question of drug use was not raised. For what it's worth, I hope the police have a standard protocol for testing drivers in serious traffic accidents - especially on Sunday mornings! - for prescription and illicit drugs. Let's all pray the police didn't rely on the hopelessly compromised ASADA drug testing regime for this aspect of the investigation.
Perhaps the best thing that can be said is that Magistrate Gerard Bryant has sent a powerful message that the presumption of innocence is in fact alive and well in Australia, despite recent events. (At least, as far as wealthy, male, famous and white footballers are concerned.)
The downside from this observation is that David Teague has now used up all the presumption of innocence for a 500km radius for at least three months. Please, fellow Victorians, don't lend your mobile SIM card to anyone until the end of the year, just to be safe!
Let's keep in mind the real tragedy: while Teague has walked away from this, his victim cannot.
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