News

Taxi driver awaits fate after found guilty

By Myles Peterson

A sombre Shepparton County Court room heard victim impact statements yesterday in the case of Jatinder Panesar ahead of the convicted man’s sentencing on Monday.

The taxi driver, 39, was found guilty this week of three counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing serious injury resulting from a collision between his taxi and a mini-bus on the intersection of Pyke Rd and Turnbull Rd, Ardmona, in June last year.

All of the elderly women injured or killed were residents of Shepparton aged care facility Mercy Health.

Mercy Health service manager Angela Marchant sat in the witness box and read out a victim impact statement to the court.

‘‘I arrived on scene and was surprised by the calmness. I could see the bus on its side. Residents lay and sat on the sheeting,’’ she said.

Ms Marchant went on to describe to the court how she had to identify Valerie McCubbin, who died at the scene of the collision.

‘‘Inside was Val’s tiny body covered with a blanket. I took a deep breath and looked at Val,’’ she said.

In the following days, Ms Marchant and her staff had to deal with the horrible aftermath, as two more women died of their injuries in hospital.

She spoke at length of the joyful lives of the women involved, and the dramatic changes in behaviour of the survivors.

Ms Marchant said many staff involved still struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prosecuting barrister Grant Hayward read out a statement from Ms McCubbin’s son, Rob.

Ms McCubbin died three days before her 81st birthday and when the family celebrates such milestones, they now do so at her grave site.

Judge Geoffrey Chettle also heard submissions from defence counsel John Dickinson QC about sentencing.

‘‘The degree of moral culpability, in my submission, must be as low as it can get. He doesn’t suffer from severe sleep apnoea. He suffers from very severe sleep apnoea,’’ Mr Dickinson told the court.

Panesar’s undiagnosed sleep apnoea condition was a key element of the defence’s argument, one the jury of 10 women and two men rejected when finding him guilty.

‘‘There is still a need for people to understand that the penalty for killing people on our roads is almost certainly a jail term,’’ Judge Chettle responded.

Panesar was again remanded into custody and is due for sentencing on Monday.