News

Former AFP officer convicted and fined

By Riverine Herald

A FORMER Detective Sergeant and Australian Federal Police officer, who fled the scene of a crash in Kyabram, has been convicted and fined $2000.

Craig Baird, 54, pleaded guilty in Echuca Magistrates Court to careless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Police prosecutor Senior Constable Paul Bush said Baird was driving his car in Allan St when he collided with an unoccupied parked vehicle about 3.20am on October 14 last year.

‘‘The impact caused the other car to spin off the road and end up facing the front fence of a house,’’ he said.

‘‘The accused’s vehicle kept going for about 200m before it stopped, causing damage to the front end.

‘‘A witness heard the crash and called 000.’’

Police arrived within minutes but Baird was gone.

Snr Constable Bush said police found Baird at 7.35am at the Kyabram basketball stadium, opposite the crash site.

‘‘He was unable to be tested (for alcohol or drugs) because it was outside the three-hour time limit,’’ he said.

Baird told police he had crashed the car after trying to avoid a kangaroo.

‘‘He said he remained on the scene for 10 minutes before he got a lift to Shepparton and returned later to speak to the victim,’’ Snr Constable Bush said.

The court heard Baird, who medically retired in 2017 with post-traumatic stress disorder, had been spoken to earlier that night over an assault between him and his brother.

Lawyer Elricia Schoeman said Baird lived in Canberra and had gone to Kyabram to ‘‘sort out’’ one of his three brothers who had been using meth.

Ms Schoeman said an argument erupted and her client’s PTSD triggered so ‘‘he decides to get in the car and leave’’.

‘‘He was in a situation where he couldn’t make good decisions at the time ... and was not familiar with Victorian law. If an accident happens and no-one is injured, reports can be made online,’’ she said.

However, magistrate Simon Zebrowski rejected that defence on the basis Baird was a former Detective Sergeant in the NT Police and AFP officer.

‘‘With 30 years in the police force he must have known it was wrong to leave the scene of an accident,’’ he said.

‘‘To think it’s okay to leave the scene of an accident is nonsensical.

‘‘I’m always suspicious of people who do this. I can’t form the opinion whether your client was drunk or not.’’

Ms Schoeman said her client’s PTSD meant he wasn’t thinking clearly and he had experienced a particularly low mood since the crash.

‘‘Both vehicles were written off but his insurance company has dealt with that,’’ she said.

‘‘He is embarrassed to be at court ... he was not thinking clearly and was in shock.’’

Mr Zebrowski said while he did not accept Baird’s ignorance of Victorian law, the serious psychological issues the former police officer suffered as a result of the ‘‘horrors’’ seen in his career could have possibly affected his judgement.

‘‘It’s not some minor bingle. The other car was damaged and yours stopped working,’’ he said.

‘‘You left the scene and then turn up more than three hours later. You could form the view (that you were drunk) but I can’t now.’’