Hit-and-run driver Nigel Edward O’Leary outside court.
Hit-and-run driver Nigel Edward O’Leary outside court. Joe Flynn

Man jailed after callous hit-run

AS JUDY Connolly took her last laboured breaths by the side of the road, her hand still holding on to her mangled bicycle, the man who hit her stopped his car for a moment — and then drove away.

In Bundaberg Magistrates Court yesterday, driver Nigel Edward O’Leary, 22, was sentenced to nine months’ jail after Magistrate John Smith found him guilty of leaving the scene of the fatal accident and showing callous disregard for the Bundaberg nurse on October 27, 2007.

Despite police forensic evidence showing the nurse’s hair, blood and skin were on the underside of his Mazda, O’Leary had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He maintained throughout his seven-month-long trial that he had stopped to check his mirrors after the impact, and believed he had hit a bike but not a person.

But Mr Smith rejected O’Leary’s story, saying he had failed in his obligations to remain at the scene, failed to obtain medical help for Ms Connolly, and knew he had collided with the woman as well as the bike.

“Mr O’Leary’s belief that he only ran over a bike and saw no one on the roadway ... was neither honest nor reliable,” Mr Smith said.

“Your actions were unlawful and unacceptable in civilised society.”

The court was told the defendant also could have approached police after his mother told him she heard on the news the next morning that detectives needed information about the fatal accident.

Instead O’Leary went to the shops to buy a newspaper, before detectives went knocking on his door.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Barry Stevens said the defendant should face the maximum penalty of one year in prison.

“It shakes at the moral foundation of the community to leave someone lying and dying on the side of the road,” he said.

But defence lawyer Julie Sharp said serving time in prison would be an “excessive” punishment that could “corrupt” rather than rehabilitate him.

She urged the magistrate to consider a suspended prison sentence or an intensive correction order.

Mr Smith ignored her argument, jailing O’Leary, disqualifying him from driving for two years and setting his parole eligibility date for February 16.

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