June verdict for prosecutor

THE VERDICT on death driving charges against Tasmania's top prosecutor will not be handed down until the end of June.

Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis, SC, has pleaded not guilty to causing the death of 27-year-old Launceston woman Natalia Pearn after a three-vehicle crash on the Midland Highway a year ago.

The five-day hearing ended yesterday, with magistrate Chris Webster telling the court he would need to have ``a very good look'' at the case before making a decision. 

Crown prosecutor John Pickering, SC, in his closing address to the court, said Mr Ellis was conscious at all times during his negligent driving, and the issue of sleep apnoea was a ``red herring''.

Mr Pickering alleged that Mr Ellis was driving in the wrong lane for up to a kilometre before colliding with Miss Pearn's Toyota.

He said evidence that Mr Ellis had been successfully treated for sleep apnoea made him at no more risk of falling asleep behind the wheel than someone without the condition, and that it was ``inconceivable'' he could be asleep while negotiating a sweeping corner.

For the charge to succeed, Mr Ellis's driving must have been ``conscious and voluntary''.

Defence lawyer Michael O'Farrell, SC, said the case was a ``classic loss of will'' and that Mr Ellis's driving was not voluntary because he was asleep, and couldn't be found guilty of causing Miss Pearn's death.

Mr O'Farrell said evidence from two witnesses driving behind Mr Ellis who saw him driving in the wrong lane should be taken ``cautiously'' by Mr Webster because they were ``confused with what happened''.

Mr O'Farrell told the court evidence from a sleep expert said it was possible to have some muscular control while experiencing sleep or the onset of sleep. 

Mr Webster's decision will be handed down on June 25.

Tim Ellis leaves the Hobart Magistrates Court yesterday with his wife, Anita Smith.

Tim Ellis leaves the Hobart Magistrates Court yesterday with his wife, Anita Smith.