An Australian lawyer who struck and killed a cyclist but drove off without stopping in order to arrange legal representation in an infamous case the became the subject of public inquiry, did not act unprofessionally...
...or at least not in the view of the South Australia Legal Practitioners Conduct Board reports the Herald Sun.
The case concerns the death of cyclist Ian Humphrey who in 2003 was riding on Kapunda Road, north of Adelaide when he was hit by Eugene McGee, an Adelaide barrister and former police prosecutor. McGee had just had lunch with his brother and mother and during the meal three bottles of wine, a glass of port and a glass of beer had been ordered.
After the collision McGee failed to stop and render assistance but simply drove on and made a number of phone calls to his lawyer and his family before being driven past the scene on the crash several hours later by his brother.
At that point, even though the police were looking for him after a witness had noted his registration and had set up a roadblock at the scene, McGee failed to identify himself. He was not interviewed by police until the following day, when officers thought they could smell alcohol but still, inexplicably, failed to breathalyse him.
At his trial McGee was found guilty of driving without due care and of failing to stop and render assistance after an accident. He was fined $3,100 and disqualified from driving for a year. He was cleared at a subsequent trial of conspiring, along with his brother, to pervert the course of justice
Mr Humphrey's widow, Di Gilcrist-Humphrey, complained to the South Australia Legal Practitioners Board about McGee’s professional conduct in April 2006 but only received a reply this week.
In the correspondence board member Tony Abbott, said McGee's conduct following the accident was not of a sufficiently "infamous nature" as to represent unprofessional conduct.
South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said he was unimpressed by the board's "weasel words."
He said: "According to the board, a lawyer can hit and kill a cyclist, leave him on the side of the road, even drive past the scene later, and not be guilty of unprofessional conduct. It is disgusting."
He added that lawyers can't be trusted to adjudicate on their fellow legal professionals.