Jessica Lance death driver to be jailed today
A JURY has ruled that driver Charles Banhelyi did not have an epileptic fit before the crash which killed teenager Jessica Lance and he now faces up to 14 years in jail.
The 66-year-old was yesterday found guilty of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing the death of the 18-year-old and grievous bodily harm to her 22-year-old sister, Rebecca Lance.
Ms Lance’s family, who have been at every day of the trial, broke down after the verdict was read out, finding some solace in the outcome outside the Townsville District Court.
‘‘ This man did not want to take any responsibility for his actions on that day and I think justice has really been served,’’ Rosemary Lance said.
‘‘ Our daughter died needlessly and we could have lost our other daughter, so we are very thankful.’’
The teen’s mother said she was not ‘‘ looking for vengeance’’ over the death of her ‘‘ intelligent and beautiful’’ daughter but she just wanted answers.
Father, Mark Lance, said closure would be a ‘‘ lifetime thing’’ for his family and credited the court system for the outcome – but he criticised the epilepsy defence used by Banhelyi.
‘‘ It’s a myth, it was a myth at the beginning, it was always a myth . . . but he gave it a shot,’’ he said. ‘‘ The lives of at least a dozen people were put at risk that day and for him to show no apparent remorse is wrong.’’
Sister Rebecca, who was seriously i njured in the crash, did not speak outside court, but later posted a comment to Banhelyion Facebook: ‘‘ You were never worth the precious life you took that day. How can you even live with yourself? Where is your conscience?! Where is your remorse?!’’.
A Townsville District Court jury took just over two hours to convict the defendant and he will be sentenced t oday by Judge Michael Shanahan after submissions by legal counsel.
The offence carries a maximum penalty of six years’ jail but because Banhelyi was found guilty for the aggravating feature of speeding in excess of 40km/ h over the speed limit, he is facing a much heftier sentence.
T h e c o u r t h a d h e a r d Banhelyi collided with a motorcyclist through a red light, failed to stop, then acc e l e r a t e d t o a r o u n d 135km/ h, crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed into the Lance sisters’ car.
Defence barrister Frank Richards argued in closing that it made no sense that a man of exemplary character with no traffic or criminal history, would drive in such a manner.
‘‘ If you put illness and in particular, a seizure, in the equation it does make sense . . . it suddenly, sadly and tragically does make sense,’’ he said.
Howeve r , Cr o wn pros - ecutor Michael Cowen, in closing, submitted the seizure defence was a smokescreen and Banhelyi failed to pay attention then panicked.
‘‘ It was fight or flight . . . suddenly he was in an extremely disturbing event with a motorcyclist on his windscreen and he had to get away,’’ Mr Cowen said.
‘‘( The epileptic fit) was a desperate charade and an act . . . it’s not that he can’t remember, it’s that if he thinks about it he just can’t live with himself.’’
Earlier in his summing up, Judge Shanahan said the incident affected many people but told the jury they must ‘‘ put aside any sympathy for or prejudice against anyone involved in this matter, including the accused’’.
SEEKING ANSWERS: Jessica Lance’s sister Rebecca and parents, Rosemary and Mark, leave court after Charles Banhelyi, right, was found guilty
GRIEVING: Jessica’s father Mark Lance and mother Rosemary outside court yesterday said they did not want vengeance, just answers