The Queensland DPP might not be the only one with some explaining to do – the Terror ‘s Brad Clifton has a fascinating story about evidence not tendered in a Sydney dangerous-driving causing death trial of fruit millionaire Nick Pisciuneri.

The key evidence the jury never heard came from the “black box” of Pisciuneri’s Monaro. Clifton writes:

Information in the electronic control unit of the new V8 coupe suggested Pisciuneri was travelling at between 170km/h and 184km/h when he lost control and slammed into a car driven by solicitor Timothy Thornton.

But, the Crown decided before trial not to rely on the data because the technology was relatively new in Australia and its veracity was likely to be challenged by the defence.

Which is a little curious. We first wrote about cars’ black box evidence waiting to happen two years ago, just before a Mosman crash that left a Queenwood student dead and her 17-year-old classmate before the courts. The driver had just received her licence and a new Peugeot convertible from her parents.

Information from the car’s “black box” played a crucial role in the girl pleading guilty in the Children’s Court to dangerous driving, but when the magistrate imposed a minimum jail sentence of two months, she appealed, wanting to withdraw the guilty plea.

That appeal was finally dismissed last week. According to The SMH, the driver’s mother “advanced towards the mother of the dead girl as the District Court rose. ‘Are you happy now?’ she said. ‘Are you happy now?'”

No troublesome black box evidence for Pisciuneri – and perhaps just as well. He received a sentence of 16 months home detention for killing Timothy Thornton, but that was after the trial judge said there was no evidence Pisciuneri was speeding. Says the Terror:

During his sentencing remarks, District Court judge John Goldring said despite the jury finding Pisciuneri guilty of dangerous driving, they could not have been satisfied that he was speeding.

He sentenced Pisciuneri – who has 20 speeding offences on his record – on the basis that his crime was “at the lower end of the range”.

In making the finding, the judge disregarded evidence from other drivers, who told of seeing Pisciuneri’s car travelling at high speed moments before the crash.

It’s very curious indeed. There are some interesting privacy issues about admitting evidence from a car’s black box – issues examined in the Mosman appeal – but there’s nothing particularly new or tricky about what the car’s computer can tell investigators. The evidence is routinely used overseas and is obviously considered extremely valuable in working out just what happened in a crash.

We are left to speculate about what sort of sentence the fruit king might have received if the Judge had all the facts. Over to you, DPP.

Peter Fray

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