The widow of a cyclist killed by hit-run lawyer Eugene McGee says she has been abandoned by the justice system following his acquittal of conspiracy charges.
Speaking outside court after MGee and his brother, Craig, this morning were found not guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice by a District Court judge, Di Gilchrist said she was not surprised by the outcome.
The verdict means the only penalty Eugene McGee will ever face for hitting and killing cyclist Ian Humphrey in 2003 – and then avoiding police while he returned to Adelaide - will be a $3100 fine for driving without due care.
“Fore more than six years I have been a victim of the criminal justice system,” Ms Gilchrist said.
“For me this has never been about wanting to see Eugene McGee sent to prison.
“It has only ever been about humanity understanding and acknowledgement.
“As happened in the trial of 2005 I have once again largely been denied this.
“Certainly the judge’s remarks in this trial support the public perception of what occurred on the night my husband was killed.
“It’s a sad reflection of the criminal justice system that something so black and white could be manipulated to absolve Eugene McGee of his lack of moral and ethical responsibility.”
She said Eugene McGee had never apologised directly to her.
“It’s one thing to say it publicly, but to say that to the people who were affected the most would be much more sincere.”
If he did apologise to her, Ms Gilchrist said she didn’t know “after all this time” if Eugene McGee did feel sorry.
Now, she plans to “live my life”. “I don’t know what closure is, I don’t know what justice is, I just think you’ve just got to keep doing what you need to do.”
Judge Peter Herriman handed down his decision at 9.15am after deliberating for about three weeks.
The McGees walked out of court as free men shortly after the verdict.
“As I said to police on the night of the accident, I’m deeply remorseful for the loss of Mr Humphrey’s life and I extend my sincere sympathy to his family,” Eugene McGee said.
He declined to make any further comments.
Nearly six and a half years have passed since the fatal collision on the Gawler to Kapunda Rd in November 2003.
In 2005, Eugene McGee was acquitted of causing death by dangerous driving, but was fined $3100 for driving without due care.
Later that year, following the Kapunda Rd Royal Commission that examined the police investigation and subsequent prosecution of Eugene McGee, he and his brother were charged with conspiracy.
Those charges have withstood appeals to both the Supreme Court and, last year, the High Court.
The case prompted legislative changes in 2006, increasing the maximum penalty for leaving the scene of an accident to a 15-year jail term.
Opening the conspiracy trial, prosecutor Emily Telfer said the brothers had “agreed to … prevent SA Police from investigating or adducing evidence of the blood alcohol level of Eugene McGee at the time of the collision”.
“(Eugene’s) failure to stop and render assistance, coupled with the possibility that alcohol consumed and the manner of driving had caused the collision, led him to being concerned about his personal and professional position,” Ms Telfer said.
The court heard numerous calls totalling 27 minutes were held between Eugene McGee and his friend and barrister David Edwardson, QC.
Calls between the brothers totalled almost 15 minutes. Neither of the brothers took the stand during the trial and only Eugene McGee called witnesses in his defence.
One of those, his psychiatrist, Alexander McFarlane, told the court that Eugene McGee had been affected by past traumas including his involvement in the Snowtown murder case.
In closing submissions, Lindy Powell, QC, for Craig McGee, said her client had lied to police, falsely saying he did not have a contact number for Eugene, because his brother wanted to speak to their mother and get legal advice first.
“Everything he did constituted a lawful act,” she said.
If Craig McGee had given police his brother’s mobile phone number “police would have prevented both these things his brother wanted to do from happening”.
In his reasons for verdict, Judge Herriman said the brothers’ actions on the night did not amount to “unlawful purpose”.
“There was no legal obligation then falling upon Eugene to surrender himself or upon either of them to assist police,” Judge Herriman said.
He said the prosecution has not established beyond reasonable doubt the brothers had agreed specifically one to frustrate, deflect or prevent police from investigating or adducing evidence of Eugene’s blood alcohol level and sobriety.
“The existence of such a plan is, of course, an available inference on the facts as I have found them to be, but there appear to me to be a number of rational hypotheses which are quite inconsistent with its proof beyond reasonable doubt.”
He said Eugene had not needed Craig’s help to hide from police for two hours and it was “reasonably possible that Craig then had no particular awareness of the significance of the two-hour period”.
But, he said it was likely there was a general plan “to ensure there was no police contact before he could see his lawyer”.
“It is a reasonable possibility that his reason for avoiding that contact had nothing to do with any perception he had as to his blood alcohol level or sobriety.”