Difficulties loom in appeal process

TASMANIA'S Director of Public Prosecutions, Tim Ellis, who was yesterday found guilty of negligent driving over a fatal head- on crash on the Midland Highway, has indicated that he will appeal against the verdict.

Mr Ellis is facing a 12-month jail term and $1300 fine for the charge of causing death by negligent driving.

Mr Ellis was driving in the wrong lane of the Midland Highway on March 24 last year when his car struck Launceston woman Natalia Pearn's hatchback, killing her instantly.

Defence lawyer Michael O'Farrell, SC, requested an adjournment before sentencing, foreshadowing an appeal against magistrate Chris Webster's decision.

It could take months before an appeal is heard, with difficulty expected in finding a Tasmanian Supreme Court Justice willing to hear the matter against the prominent legal figure.

Two magistrates refused to preside over the trial, before magistrate Chris Webster agreed to take it on.

Government minister Rene Hidding said yesterday that there would be no change to the arrangements in the Director of Public Prosecutions' office while the matter was still before the courts.

"It looks like being there for a little while yet," Mr Hidding said.

Asked if Mr Ellis's prolonged absence had caused a disruption to the office, Mr Hidding said Tasmania was being well served.

"It always is if there's a person out of the position, but that's been a longstanding thing now, and the office is operating well," Mr Hidding said.

Mr Ellis is on a salary of about $500,000 and will remain suspended on full pay until at least the conclusion of the legal proceedings.

If the guilty verdict is upheld and Mr Ellis does not resign from his position, only the Governor has the power to sack him.

Under the legislation, the DPP can be removed from office if he is "guilty of misbehaviour".

The severity of the penalty handed down is likely to be a factor in determining if Mr Ellis's crime constituted misbehaviour.

Mr Ellis will appear in court again for sentencing on July 22.

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