I’ve previously reported on a NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer who was facing serious criminal charges following a fatal motor vehicle accident – see Rural Fire Service volunteer on trial for fatal collision (May 19, 2016). 9News Online is reporting that a jury has returned a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’ (see NSW firie not guilty over fatal smash, 16 June 2016).
Whilst this process must have been very hard for all concerned it is an example of the rule of law in action. This was a tragic accident where one person died and one person was permanently and seriously injured. Testing, in public, whether the conduct of the fire fighter was criminally culpable should help to reassure the community and the family of the loved one’s that the matter was investigated and properly dealt with, something that may not happen if decisions such a decision not to prosecute are made by the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions. Where there is evidence to suggest a crime may have been committed the appropriate course is to put the matter before a jury and let the community’s representatives – the jury – determine whether conduct was ‘reasonable’ or caused the death and injury. Because juries do not give reasons for their decision, however, we’ll not know what factors were considered important in their decision.