A TRUCK driver has been cleared by a jury of dangerous driving causing the death of 64-year-old farmer Norm Suckling, at Marong in 2019.
Mr Suckling had been riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle on the Calder Alternative Highway on October 29, when his vehicle collided with a truck driven by Moorooduc beekeeper Rapple Borris Tadeje.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before delivering their verdict at the Bendigo County Court on Tuesday.
Mr Tedeje put his head down in obvious relief and exited the dock and hugged a supporter who was crying. He sat down in a seat beside her in the public gallery.
In the trial's closing arguments, prosecutor David Cordy said he accepted that the intersection was "a bad and dangerous piece of road" which was both poorly designed and signposted.
After the jury left the courtroom Judge Fran Dalziel said she would hear the lesser charges against Mr Tedeje, which had not been discussed in front of jurors.
She said that, following the trial, Mr Tedeje was still facing two charges stemming from the crash which were: one count of careless driving and one count of failing to give way.
Defence barrister Ian Polak said Mr Tedeje would plead guilty to careless driving and he expected the second charge, of failing to give way, to be withdrawn.
Mr Polak said the charges had been hanging over his client's head for a long time and had prevented him from going home.
He said Mr Tadeje, now 32, had come to Australia from the Philippines on a 457 working visa and had previously gone home to see his family each winter, but had been unable to travel because of the trial.
Mr Polak said that during the past few years Mr Tedeje's parents had both caught COVID-19 and his mother had been on life support and was suffering from "long COVID".
He said his client had a previously unblemished driving record and no criminal history and had continued to work after being charged.
Judge Dalziel said the trial had shown that even a "small mistake while driving" could have "devastating consequences".
"This has hung over you for two years," she said.
"Bearing in mind the jury's verdict and your plea of guilty to careless driving I will fine you $1000."
Judge Dalziel said she would not record a conviction, nor suspend Mr Tedeje's driver's licence.
Mr Polak had previously told the court, in front of the jury, there were sometimes "tragic accidents" on the roads, for which nobody was criminally responsible. He said this was one of those cases and that his client had followed the road rules.
Mr Polak said it was impossible to know if the motorcycle had been speeding at the time of the crash and the jury would not be able to determine, beyond reasonable doubt, if the truck driver had been driving dangerously and therefore responsible for the collision.
Mr Cordy told the jury that though the scene of the crash was a dangerous piece of road, Mr Tedeje still had the responsibility to "drive to the conditions of the road" and given the dangers, he should not have chosen to make his turn there.
He confirmed the final charge of failing to give way would be withdrawn.
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