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Magistrate found driver guilty but acquitted him

Luke Simon Meade four years ago ran over and killed Jason Lindsay Thomas at Bonogin Valley, in the Gold Coast hinterland. But he's walking from court with just an $800 fine, to the dismay of Thomas' relatives and friends.

On April 13, 2008, Mr. Meade, then 19, was driving drunk teen Ciara Price to her home when Mr. Meade ran over Mr. Thomas on the isolated Bonogin Road. Ms. Price phoned an emergency operator but gave a false name and number. Mr. Meade continued driving his white Nissan Pulsar home without assisting the victim.

At a trial in 2008, Meade, of Merrimac, pleaded guilty to failing to remain at the scene and showing callous disregard. Magistrate Dermot Kehoe sentenced Mr. Meade to eight months in jail, with a non-parole period of six weeks, and suspended his driving license for two years. Meade was released after two days when he filed an appeal in the Southport District Court. In 2010, the appeals court overturned the sentence and sent back the case to Southport Magistrate's Court.

This time, Magistrate Deborah Vasta found Mr. Meade guilty of failing to remain at the scene but acquitted Meade of showing callous disregard for an injured or deceased person.

A pathologist testified that an autopsy showed Mr. Thomas suffered fatal injuries but was still alive for several minutes after being hit by Mr. Meade.

But Magistrate Vasta on Tuesday sympathised with the two teens who panicked after finding a body in the middle of a deserted road in the Gold Coast on a night "as black as aces".

Mr. Thomas fell and was knocked unconscious in the middle of the road before Mr. Meade accidentally ran over him, Ms. Vasta found.

A taxi has testified that driver he had dropped an alcohol-affected Mr. Thomas near Bonogin Road at 2.30 a.m. Minutes later, another driver saw Mr. Thomas hitchhiking in the middle of the road. Mr. Thomas was found dead at about 3:15 a.m.

"Nothing could've been done to prevent this incident," Ms. Vasta said. "If it wasn't Mr. Meade who struck him, it probably would've been the next driver who would have caused his death," the magistrate said.

The family of Mr. Thomas was devastated by the verdict.

If you are concerned about a conviction being recorded against you and the potential impact on your future, speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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