Guilty

Jessica Lance death driver to be jailed to­day

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - by Roanne John­son roanne. john­son@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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’’.

Pho­tos: SCOTT RAD­FORD-CHISHOLM, FIONA HARD­ING

SEEK­ING AN­SWERS: Jessica Lance’s sis­ter Re­becca and par­ents, Rose­mary and Mark, leave court af­ter Charles Ban­helyi, right, was found guilty

Photo: SCOTT RAD­FORD-CHISHOLM

GRIEV­ING: Jessica’s fa­ther Mark Lance and mother Rose­mary out­side court yes­ter­day said they did not want vengeance, just an­swers

Jessica Lance

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