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Jury hears final arguments in grievous bodily harm road crash trial

A man accused of drink-driving and causing a crash that left his friend seriously injured was more interested in fleeing the scene than getting an ambulance, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

In her closing statement to the jury, prosecutor Victoria Greening said defendant John Wardman was “more concerned about getting his car home than calling for help” and that “every step he has taken up to today has been to avoid taking responsibility for what happened that morning”.

Mr Wardman, 29, of Paget, denies causing grievous bodily harm to Alexander Doyle while driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit, driving while impaired and failing to provide Mr Doyle with the necessaries of life on December 27, 2010.

Prosecutors allege Mr Wardman was driving home with his brother, Christopher Wardman, and Mr Doyle after a night's drinking when he crashed twice in Paget.

Christopher Wardman initially told police he was driving when they crashed, although he changed his story almost immediately after being arrested and said his brother had been behind the wheel.

The defence claims it is not possible to determine who was driving that night.

Ms Greening told the jury Mr Doyle's injuries “could have killed him” and that there was “undisputed evidence” — in the form of a police breath test — that John Wardman was over the legal alcohol limit at the time of the crash, with a reading of 212 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80mg.

She emphasised that Mr Doyle had stated he had been in the Wardman family car many times and that John Wardman usually drove.

The prosecutor also questioned why the car was not stopped after the first crash.

Ms Greening said: “Did the defendant have a duty to assist his friend that morning? Because he was driving and Alex was in the passenger seat, he did.

“People arrived on the scene but there wasn't one plea for help, to call for an ambulance. Did he do anything to seek medical assistance? No, he did not.

“There were two collisions. The defendant didn't do what a reasonable person would do after the first one and stop, check everyone was okay, maybe get the car off the road. He tried to keep going in the direction of his house.

“Trying to escape — that was what was on his mind, not getting help for his friend.”

Ms Greening said that while the victim initially told police that Christopher Wardman was driving, this was because he had suffered short-term memory loss in the accident and was not sure about what had happened until later.

She also said that Christopher Wardman had pleaded guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice after changing his story and denying he had been the driver.

“He said it was his brother. He was trying to protect him, so he tells the police John was driving. He accepted responsibility [for lying]. The defendant is still trying to avoid responsibility.

“Is the defendant lying, trying to pin the blame on his brother? He told a barefaced lie to the police that his brother was their designated driver [in the aftermath of the crash].” Ms Greening also addressed claims by defence lawyer Mark Daniels that the police investigation was flawed and there was no forensic evidence to prove who was driving.

“There's an absence of any evidence to that effect, it's pure speculation,” she said.

Mr Daniels told the jury that John Wardman had not taken the stand because that could involve accusing his brother and the onus was on the prosecution to prove he had been driving, not on the defendant to prove his innocence.

He also said John Wardman had voluntarily taken a breath test in police custody — but Christopher Wardman had not.

“How would you feel having to take the stand and point the finger at your own sibling, a family member?” he asked.

“He hasn't said, ‘I'm not the driver'. He's not said he's going to point the finger to prove my innocence.

“All the evidence points to Christopher Wardman as the driver — he admitted to driving, he refused a breath test. Juxtapose that with the disposition of John Wardman.

“The Crown case is littered with inconsistencies and conjecture, there's no concrete evidence.”

Mr Daniels highlighted the lack of CCTV, witnesses or forensic evidence to determine who was driving. He also said there was no mechanical report of the car to assess whether a fault caused the smash.

He highlighted that witness Dr Guy Cooper, an expert in glass transfer evidence, had told the jury he could not determine whether particles on the defendant's clothes and face were definitely glass, or that these ended up on him because he was driving when the vehicle crashed.

The expert also said there may have been glass on Christopher Wardman, to suggest he was driving, that could not be seen by the naked eye but would have been detected by forensic tests.

Mr Daniels said: “It's very well possible that a passenger could have climbed out of the driver's side through a door or window and in the process may have collected glass.”

He also said John Wardman did not call for help because he did not have a phone and that help arrived in the form of a passer-by, tow truck driver Keith Richardson, minutes later.

“Neither John nor Christopher had a cellphone that night. There is no evidence of seizing of a cellphone. There was no cellphone in his possession at the police station.

“What evidence do you have to believe he gave no regard to his brethren?”

Judge Charles-Etta Simmons is expected to send out the jury today to deliberate their verdict.

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Published July 17, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated July 17, 2014 at 12:15 am)

Jury hears final arguments in grievous bodily harm road crash trial

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