Byron based developer Bart Elias has been found guilty of menacing driving, in an incident involving his ex-wife and her new partner, on the road their properties share at Brooklet, in February.
Mr Elias, whose business links with Kings Cross nightclub owner John Ibrahim and Gold Coast partyboy Travers ‘The Candyman’ Beynon were recently revealed, was charged with menacing driving and negligent driving over the February 24 incident.
He pleaded not guilty to both charges and the matter was part-heard before Magistrate R Denes at Ballina Local Court in August.
The court heard Mrs Elias went to Ballina police station to complain about her ex-husband’s manner of driving after her boyfriend Anton Thiessen had picked her up from Ballina airport and Mr Elias tried to run them off Friday Hut Rd.
‘He was driving very, very fast and driving so close, millimetres apart from my car to try to get us off the side of the road,’ Mrs Elias said in evidence.
‘Bart was on the wrong side of the road and he was trying to push us off the other side.’
She said she unsuccessfully tried to video the incident on her mobile phone.
Under cross-examination by Mr Elias’ barrister Murugan Thangaraj SC, the officer in charge of the case, senior constable Anthony Brown admitted omitting information from Sergeant Gregory Woolfe and Mr Elias about the incident in the police facts of the case.
Owner of Fernleigh Spring Water Deliveries, Phillip Clarke, who knew both Mr and Mrs Elias, gave evidence of passing her Mercedes station wagon on Brooklet Road, Newrybar, about 11.45 am.
A few seconds later, Mr Clarke said a car came sharply around the corner and it was Mr Elias, who was half way across his side of the road.
As Sergeant Woolfe was absent from duty, Magistrate Denes adjourned the matter part-heard until today, Friday October 28.
When the hearing resumed, Sergeant Woolfe gave evidence of preparing a statement about the incident as he was on duty that day and took a phone call from Mr Elias about what had happened.
The court heard Mr Elias had emailed his legal counsel that morning regarding a possible breach of an interim AVO involving his ex-wife, which was forwarded to police.
But when police prosecutor Alissia Kennedy moved to tender the email, which she said put into context the day’s events, Mr Thangaraj objected, as Mr Elias did not give evidence before the court.
Magistrate Denes agreed with Mr Thangaraj and ruled the evidence as inadmissible.
Under cross-examination by Mr Thangaraj, Sgt Woolfe said he only prepared a statement about the incident when he was asked to, four months after the day.
When Sgt Woolfe prepared the statement he said the matters weren’t fresh in his mind and he agreed when he spoke to Mr Elias on the phone he complained his ex-wife and Mr Thiessen tried to run him off the road.
He said police were motivated to act on such incidents if a complainant held fears, and as no fear was expressed the matter was designated as not urgent.
Prosecutor Sgt Kennedy submitted Mr Elias was agitated after Mr Thiessen stuck his finger up at him and turned his vehicle onto the wrong side of the road while pursuing Mrs Elias’ vehicle.
She said the prosecution case relied on the evidence given by Mrs Elias, Mr Thiessen and Mr Clarke.
As Mr Thiessen was trying to turn into the driveway, Sgt Kennedy said Mr Elias ‘angled in’ to try to prevent them and approached at ‘quite a rapid rate’.
This combined with the swerving and driving along Friday Hut Road described by Mrs Elias amounted to driving that menaced, Sgt Kennedy submitted.
But Mr Thangaraj argued as the charge of menacing driving related to actions on Friday Hut Road, Mr Clarke’s evidence of seeing Mr Elias half-way across the wrong side of the road at Newrybar did not relate.
Magistrate Denes said some of the evidence attempted to be put before the court relating to the case regarding affairs and alleged breaches of APVO’s was, with no disrespect, ‘a soap opera’.
Despite obvious inconsistencies in their evidence, Ms Denes said she accepted the versions given by Mr Thiessen and Mrs Elias of the day.
Mr Clarke’s evidence was valuable, Ms Denes said, as he was an independent witness who knew both parties and was able to indicate the demeanour of Mrs Elias and Mr Thiessen compared with Mr Elias.
‘He was coming around a corner sharply, fast,’ Ms Denes said of Mr Clarke’s evidence about Mr Elias’ driving.
‘The car was three-quarters on his side of the road.
‘It was very very compelling and telling evidence.
‘He was driving at speed, somewhat aggressively.’
Suggestions by Mr Thangaraj that Mr Thiessen didn’t make admissions and lied when giving evidence were dismissed by Magistrate Denes.
Magistrate Denes said the police investigation into the case was ‘less than perfect’ and could be described as ‘sloppy’.
‘The impression I got was that this was not being take particularly seriously by police,’ she said.
‘In the police minds, this was a messy domestic.’
After considering all the evidence, Mr Elias was found guilty of menacing driving by Magistrate Denes.
‘Ultimately I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the manner of driving certainly did menace them,’ Magistrate Denes said.
As Mr Elias was convicted of menacing driving, fined $1000 and disqualified from driving for 12 months, Magistrate Denes did not need to consider the lesser charge of negligent driving.
‘That was particularly menacing and dangerous driving,’ Magistrate Denes said.
‘Luckily nobody was hurt and it was for a relatively short period of time,’ she said.
Magistrate Denes also made an interim apprehended personal violence order APVO between Mr and Mrs Elias a final order for 12 months.