Bus driver jailed over crash that left one passenger with a broken neck and others with glass in their faces appeals his sentence and WINS after saying he just ‘made a mistake’
- Ballarat bus driver Jack Aston won an appeal over a 2016 bus crash on Monday
- Aston’s six convictions for negligently causing serious injury were overturned
- Court will either convict Aston on lesser charge or impose reduced sentence
A Ballarat bus driver jailed for injuring six people when he crashed into a notorious Melbourne bridge has won an appeal, but won’t walk free straight away.
Jack Aston’s six convictions for negligently causing serious injury were overturned by the Court of Appeal on Monday, when it was determined prosecutors made a mistake by not raising with the judge a less serious alternative charge of dangerous driving.
The court has the option of convicting Aston on the lesser charge and imposing a reduced sentence.
Further arguments are expected on Monday from prosecutor Fran Dalziel QC, who is pushing for a retrial.
Jack Aston’s (centre) six convictions for negligently causing serious injury were overturned by the Court of Appeal on Monday
Ashton was jailed for five years and three months, with a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years, after crashing into the Montague Street Bridge in South Melbourne in February 2016 (pictured)
Ashton was jailed for five years and three months, with a non-parole period of two-and-a-half years, after crashing into the Montague Street Bridge in South Melbourne in February 2016.
Six of Aston’s 14 passengers suffered a range of injuries including spinal fractures, glass particles in the face, scalp injuries and a broken neck.
On Monday, Aston’s lawyer, Catherine Boston, said the maximum penalty of the dangerous driving charge was half that of the negligence charge and the law required it to have been be considered as an alternative.
Ms Boston said she wasn’t suggesting there had been a deliberate failure by anybody in the trial, but that without the lesser charge being raised by prosecutors, they had failed to meet their legal obligations.
Justice Phillip Priest was critical of the failure.
‘This is basic trial practice,’ he said.
Six of Aston’s 14 passengers suffered a range of injuries including spinal fractures, glass particles in the face, scalp injuries and a broken neck
Aston’s family, friends and the wider community rallied together to form a ‘Free Jack’ movement, calling for his release
‘I’d expect a prosecutor to know, defence to know and, with all respect, the judge should have known.’
However, Ms Dalziel said the judges had to accept that the prosecutor didn’t know there it was an alternative charge required under law.
The judges criticised as ‘unfair’ her assumption that defence lawyers must have known it was an alternative and chose not to raise it because they wanted to run an ‘all or nothing’ case.
She has asked the court to order Aston be retried.
Justice David Beach called the push ‘curious in the extreme’ when the Crown’s purpose would be maintained with convictions for dangerous driving being imposed.
He pointed out that murder cases were ‘routinely’ settled as manslaughter.
Ms Dalziel said the prosecution had successfully run it’s negligence case and to resolve this matter on a lesser basis would undermine that jury’s verdict.
The court will hear more arguments later on Monday.
Aston’s wife Wendy Aston, daughter Meg Aston and son Ben Aston, rally against his sentence of five years and three months