FORMER Loddon Shire mayor Gavan Holt has been convicted, fined $2000 and had his licence suspended for six months after fleeing the scene of a high-speed crash in October.
Holt, 65, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Thursday to failing to stop after an accident, failing to report an accident to police and careless driving.
Holt was mayor at the time and was driving to his Wedderburn property on October 27 after completing council business.
He strayed onto the wrong side of Wedderburn-Serpentine Road just after 10pm and hit an oncoming Mercedes, causing extensive damage to both vehicles.
The crash was in a 100 km/h section of the road.
The court heard Holt started to slow down, but then accelerated away from the scene. His Holden Statesman sustained such damage that it left a skid mark trail for kilometres up the road.
Four men followed the trail and found Holt parked on the side of the road seven kilometres from the crash scene.
After a conversation with the men, in which Holt repeatedly asked “is he alright? Is he alright?”, Holt said another person would come to pick him up.
The next day, his car was parked a further two kilometres up the road.
He visited the victim the next morning, who was uninjured in the crash. The victim – a man in his late 70s – told Holt he would contact police.
Holt was interviewed at Inglewood Police Station on November 13, where he told officers he “panicked” and had “done the wrong thing”.
He also admitted he had drunk alcohol on the night, having two full-strength stubbies with a meal between 5pm and 7pm, and a further four pots of mid-strength beer at Jarklin’s Four Post Hotel between 7.30pm and 9.30pm.
Holt was not charged with drink driving, but Magistrate John Murphy said “he was obviously affected by grog”. Holt’s defence counsel Scott Belcher conceded Holt may have been alcohol affected.
Mr Belcher presented documents from high profile members of the community, including Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh, outlining Holt’s decades of service to the community.
He argued a loss of licence would have a severe impact on Holt’s farming business, which spans 3500 acres and stretches for up to 17 kilometres. He would need his licence to cart water, the court heard.
Mr Belcher said Holt had made “an error in judgement” and had driven many thousands of kilometres in the weeks leading up to the crash.
“He has travelled that road many hundreds of times and never seen another car,” he said.
“He had been very busy with meetings, including regular trips to Melbourne, spending many hours on the road.
“The very next morning, he visited the victim. He contacted him many times to check on his welfare.”
In sentencing, Magistrate John Murphy said Holt “could have left the poor man for dead”.
“The circumstances of this incident, with the severity of the impact on the victim’s vehicle, with his offside rear rims buckled from the tyre, demonstrates you would have been fully aware of the seriousness of the incident,” he said.
“This is all about the road toll. It was very, very fortunate that this did not result in a much more serious matter.”
Mr Murphy said it was clear Holt “had made an outstanding contribution to the community”.
“It’s a bit like a bank account, you have credits in the bank with your contribution to the community and you’re entitled to have that taken into account,” he said.
Holt was convicted, fined $2000 and had his licence suspended for six months.
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