Lessons from Gregory v Commissioner of Police
Facts of the Cycling Accident
On 13 June 2017, Mr Paul Gregory turned right at an intersection controlled by traffic lights and hit a cyclist, Mr Shane Crawford who was travelling along one of the oncoming lanes.
Mr Gregory drove away and did not stop to exchange details with Mr Crawford after the accident.
The summary trial convicted Mr Gregory on 19 April 2018 of:
- Failing to give way at an intersection with traffic lights; and
- Failing to stop at the scene of a crash and provide particulars.
Mr Crawford’s Evidence of the Cycling Accident
Mr Crawford gave the following evidence:
- he was on his regular way home from work travelling in the left lane of a two-lane road
- as he went through the intersection, Mr Gregory’s car turned across his path
- unable to stop on time, he hit the front left side of the car and flew over his handlebars
- after stopping for one to two seconds, the car drove away from the scene of the accident
- he took note of the car’s registration number and watched it turn left into a side street
- he spent the next 30 minutes searching the nearby streets and eventually found the car that hit him parked outside a house
- he called the police and waited for their arrival
Mr Crawford sustained bruising as the result of the accident but no major injuries. Although his bicycle’s components have been damaged in the accident, the bicycle still rolled if pushed.
During cross-examination, Mr Gregory challenged Mr Crawford’s evidence and suggested:
- That the cyclist was travelling in the left-turning lane from which he could not travel straight ahead immediately before the accident happened – Mr Crawford denied he was in the left-turning lane and confirmed that he was travelling southbound which required him to travel straight ahead through the intersection.
- That the cyclist was riding his bicycle from side-to-side as he approached the intersection – This suggestion was denied by Mr Crawford.
- That the cyclist had bumped into Mr Gregory’s car which, he claimed, was not moving at the time of the accident because of a dip in the road that made him to stop the car – Mr Crawford denied these propositions claiming that Mr Gregory’s car hit his right arm and he flew over the handlebars.
- That, after bumping into the car and being asked if he was okay, the cyclist started thumping the car with his fists – Mr Crawford denied this proposition.
- That, if the bicycle was damaged in the manner described by Mr Crawford, he could not have been riding around the streets looking for the car which hit him – Mr Crawford replied that even though some parts of his bicycle have been damaged in the accident, it was still possible to roll it and he was able to sit on the bicycle and roll down the hills looking for the car that hit him.
- It was not possible to see the car turn into a side street because of the distance – Mr Crawford confirmed that he could see the indicator of the car was on and saw the car turn left into a side street.
- That there was no need for the cyclist to search for the car as he had taken down the registration number and he was simply seeking revenge – Mr Crawford responded that because he saw the car turn left, that it was likely the driver was a local resident.
Mr Gregory’s Evidence of the Cycling Accident
- Mr Gregory claimed that the cyclist had bumped into his standing, and not moving, car.
- He said that he had turned right and stopped because of a road bump to avoid damaging his car.
- As he turned, he said he noticed a cyclist to his left riding his bicycle from side to side.
- He said he heard the bicycle hit his car and thought the cyclist’s brakes had failed.
- When asked by the police why he didn’t stop to exchange details with the cyclist, he explained that he didn’t know that he had to do so.
It was only during cross-examination that Mr Gregory gave evidence that the cyclist had started thumping his car after the accident and this was the reason why he didn’t stop to exchange details with Mr Crawford.
He also claimed he was suffering from a stomach bug and needed to get home quickly.
Mr Gregory was questioned on why this evidence had not been provided to the police on the day of the accident. He claimed that he did not understand why the police were at his house and he also thought the police would charge the cyclist with assault if they knew about the thumping.
In addition, he did not raise his medical condition with the police at his house because they did not question him about it.
The Magistrate’s Decision
The Magistrate found beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant failed to give right of way and failed to stop at a crash to give particulars.
The court found:
- That Mr Crawford was an experienced cyclist who would have been aware that the far left lane was a turning lane. The Magistrate accepted that Mr Crawford was heading straight ahead through the intersection consistent with the direction to his home.
- That if the car had been stationary, it would have been easy for Mr Crawford to manoeuvre and avoid a collision. He did not accept the car was stationary at a dip in the road, particularly since additional police evidence was provided stating that there was no noticeable dip in the road that affected driving through the intersection.
- That Mr Gregory’s evidence kept changing as the evidence he provided to the police at the date of the accident was inconsistent with the version of evidence he gave to the court. In particular, he did not report that the cyclist had thumped his car and that he had been intimidated or threatened by him.
- That there had been ample opportunity to exchange information at the time of the accident. The Magistrate did not accept the evidence provided by Mr Gregory that he had felt intimidated by Mr Crawford’s thumping on the car as this was not mentioned to the police.
The convictions were appealed on the following grounds:
- That Mr Crawford was not the person who hit Mr Crawford’s car on 13 June 2017.
- That if Mr Crawford was the person riding the bicycle, his evidence was unreliable and should not have been accepted by the Magistrate.
- That he should not have been convicted of failing to stop at a crash to give particulars as there was a reasonable explanation for not having done so.
- That the Magistrate had pre-determined the matter and decided he was guilty prior to the trial.
The appeal was dismissed.
The Judge found that Mr Gregory did not establish that the decision of the Magistrate was the result of any legal, factual or discretionary error.
The judge considered the four arguments advanced by Mr Gregory and dismissed each for the following reasons:
- Mr Gregory sought leave to adduce new evidence (in the form of an affidavit) that showed the man identifying himself as Mr Crawford was not the person who hit his car. The judge refused this leave on the basis that the new evidence was not credible as Mr Gregory did not raise any dispute as to Mr Crawford’s identity either during his cross-examination or in his own evidence before the Magistrate.
- The Judge considered that the evidence provided by Mr Crawford was not only plausible but was also able to be corroborated by other evidence. He noted:
- That Mr Crawford’s evidence regarding damage to his bicycle to the police and throughout the trial was consistent and was supported by police evidence and photographs tendered in evidence at trial.
- The Judge did not accept Mr Gregory’s argument that Mr Crawford was travelling in the far-left turning lane. He found this inconsistent with the path Mr Crawford would take to get home. He said that even if it is entertained that Mr Crawford was turning, Mr Gregory was still required to give way to him.
- Further, the Judge did not accept Mr Gregory’s argument that no medical evidence was provided to support Mr Crawford’s claim that he was injured. He considered that the absence of medical evidence did not detract credibility from the evidence provided by Mr Crawford.
- The Judge did not consider Mr Gregory provided adequate answers for not having stopped to provide particulars after the cycling accident. He did not accept that Mr Gregory felt intimidated by Mr Crawford as there was no mention to the police that Mr Crawford was thumping on the car. If Mr Crawford was acting in a threatening manner, it would be expected that this would have been disclosed to the police after the accident.
In addition, the judge did not accept Mr Gregory’s oral argument that he was ill and had to rush home. He considered it illogical for Mr Gregory not to have mentioned this to the police when they came to his house, whether prompted or otherwise. Given the circumstances, the Judge thought that the evidence had been made up by Mr Gregory when cross-examined.
- The Judge reviewed the conduct of the Magistrate throughout the entire case and found no irregularities in the trial process that suggested in any way that the Magistrate had predetermined the matter. He noted that the Magistrate went to considerable lengths to explain the trial process to the appellant and to assure him that he was innocent of any charge until proven otherwise, beyond a reasonable doubt.