Man to face County Court over serious collision which injured grandson

By Liz Mellino

A Shepparton man will appear in the County Court at a later date following a serious collision which injured himself and his grandson at Major Plains.

Steven Clarke faced Magistrate Stella Stuthridge in Shepparton's Magistrate Court on Wednesday where he was sentenced to six months jail for the collision on Dookie-Devenish Rd last year.

Following the order by Ms Stuthridge, the court heard Clarke's barrister Pierre Baume appealed his clients sentence, with Clarke bailed to appear in the County Court at a later date.

The court previously heard the collision occurred at around 1am on February 8 last year, with Clarke driving the vehicle and his grandson, 18, in the front passenger seat beside him.

The court heard Clarke lost control of the vehicle while driving, colliding with a tree on the side of the road before the vehicle came to rest in a nearby paddock on its roof.

The court heard Clarke suffered a broken sternum, collarbone, and tendon and muscle damage, while his grandson required surgery and ongoing physiotherapy for a fractured femoral shaft.

At the time of the collision Clarke's licence was suspended.

In court on Tuesday, Mr Baume told Ms Stuthridge that Clarke had been seeing a psychologist following the collision who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Mr Baume said Clarke could not explain what happened on the day of the accident, explaining his client had "no memory" from the time of the collision.

The scene of the collision on Dookie-Devenish Rd in Major Plains.

In a report submitted by Detective Michael Hardiman of the Major Collisions Investigation Unit, pre-crash data downloaded from the vehicle's airbag module indicated that five seconds prior to impact the vehicle was travelling at 223 km/h, more than 100km/h over the speed limit.

The report also stated that in the five seconds before the collision Clarke did not apply the brakes.

“It might have been a kangaroo and he tried to avoid it, but that doesn't explain the speed of the car,” Mr Baume said.

“The psychologist view is that because of his substantial mental impairment (Clarke) is likely to have fallen asleep prior to the incident and probably pressed the accelerator pillow because he was asleep instead of the brake pedal.

“No one knows exactly what happened.”

Mr Baume said Clarke's grandson did not submit a victim impact statement, however a letter of support was submitted by Clarke's ex-wife.

The court heard due to Clarke's "severe depression" he takes regular medication, suffers panic attacks and was in poor physical health causing him to walk with a cane.

Mr Baume said a neuro-psychologist report stated that Clarke was suffering from an acquired brain injury causing "severely impaired memory" and required "intensive psychiatric treatment".

“He has expressed remorse and feels guilty he caused a serious injury that could have been fatal to him and his grandson,” he said.

Police prosecutor Kim Thomson told the court that numerous speed and steering inputs suggested Clarke was "well and awake prior to impact".

She argued a custodial sentence was the only option appropriate given the circumstances.

When sentencing, Ms Stuthridge acknowledged Clarke's "significant priors", including driving while suspended, driving while disqualified and driving in a dangerous manner.

She accepted Clarke suffered from a number of physical injuries which were "debilitating and painful" along with living with an acquired brain injury for the past 20 years.

Ms Stuthridge said it was a "grave offence" and despite serving time in prison in the past Clarke continued to travel at excessive speeds.

When sentencing, Ms Stuthridge said she lessened the weight placed on general and specific deterrence due to Clarke's physiological difficulties and the struggles he would face in prison.

Ms Stuthridge sentenced him to six months prison, following an 18-month community corrections order and his licence cancelled and disqualified for six years.

Clarke is set to face the Shepparton County Court.