Peter Francis Colbert, the sole director of Colbert Transport,
was charged with one count of manslaughter, and one count of
endangering a life, as a result of failing to properly maintain the
brakes in vehicles operated by Colbert Transport.
The manslaughter charge followed a fatal accident in which one
of Colbert Transport's vehicles failed to brake properly, ran
into a pole and, as a result, the driver was killed. Prior to this
accident, another Colbert Transport driver was involved in a
'near-miss': Colbert was also charged with endangering that
driver's life. A jury found Colbert guilty of both counts.
At the criminal trial, evidence was led that during the fatal
collision, the driver tried to use the failed brakes 11 times: a
dashcam video was installed in the truck which recorded those
attempts. A senior vehicle examiner with the Major Crash Section of
the Police Department gave evidence of the braking capacity of each
of the six wheels on the three axles of the truck. He testified
that that the particular measurements of each wheel could indicate
its braking capacity (for example, 54mm of travel on the left wheel
meant the left wheel had only minimal braking capacity).
In sentencing Colbert to twelve years imprisonment, Justice Peek
considered Colbert flagrantly failed to meet his responsibilities,
when he became sole company director of Colbert Transport, he
did not make any inquiries or look into the service history of the
trucks, relying on his predecessor's casual assurance that
'everything was up to scratch with the
taking no action despite receiving repeated requests from
drivers to fix the brakes;
failing to have the brakes on the vehicle involved in the fatal
accident checked, even though the vehicle was sent to a mechanic
three times; and
directing the deceased to drive the truck on the day of the
Those circumstances were further coloured by Colbert's
cavalier attitude to road safety.
Justice Peek considered the relevance of the 'near-miss'
to the manslaughter charge, in saying: 'first, it
illustrates or confirms what one would already know, that sending
out a truck in such circumstances is highly dangerous, and at the
very least endangers the life of the driver of that truck. Second,
it had the immediate effect of drawing the problem of the brakes to
the attention of [the driver] who immediately drew it to your
attention in very forceful terms'. Colbert testified that
he was never told about the near-miss. Justice Peek rejected that
Media sources assert that the case is the first where lack of
maintenance by a transport operator has resulted in a conviction
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This decision will be significant to aviation industry participants in assessing whether claimants in the context of international or domestic carriage by air have commenced claims in an appropriate forum in Australia.
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