Guilty finding: Ellis sleep defence rejected

IT WAS "inconceivable" that Director of Public Prosecutions Tim Ellis was falling asleep as he drove up to 1.5 kilometres in the wrong lane before his car collided with Natalia Pearn's, killing her, magistrate Chris Webster said yesterday.

Mr Webster spent three months considering evidence presented during a five-day trial in March before finding Mr Ellis guilty of negligent driving causing death.

In his reasons for the decision, Mr Webster rejected Mr Ellis's defence that he was not conscious in the lead-up to the head-on collision on March 24.

"It is inconceivable that a vehicle could be driven ... onto the incorrect side of the road at 100km/h, maintain its position in that lane for 700 metres, and then round a sweeping bend, and continue on that road for a distance of between 300 to 800metres whilst the driver was asleep," Mr Webster said in his statement of reasons.

Mr Ellis passed two vehicles before the crash.

"I do not accept that he would go to sleep immediately after passing two vehicles at Spring Hill," Mr Webster said.



The magistrate also said sleep should be excluded as an option because Mr Ellis had been successfully treated for sleep apnoea and his previous problems with lack of sleep had been fixed.

It was a case that attracted national attention as the man revered for fiercely prosecuting the law became the defendant.

Mr Ellis showed no emotion as the verdict was read out and maintained his silence outside the courtroom as he made his way slowly on crutches to his car, followed closely by a waiting media pack.

Miss Pearn's father, Alan, flew down from Queensland to hear Mr Ellis be found responsible for causing the death of his youngest daughter.

Miss Pearn's family declined to comment on the verdict, citing commitments to a national television program.

High-profile Tasmanians with grievances against Mr Ellis were also in the court to hear the decision, including former police commissioner Jack Johnston, who was unsuccessfully prosecuted for allegedly disclosing state secrets.

Stuart Shaw, who has faced Mr Ellis in the courtroom in the past, was pleased about the guilty verdict.

"It gives me great pleasure to see justice being done," Mr Shaw said outside court.