Truck boss pleads guilty to exposing police in fatal Eastern Freeway crash to risk

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The boss of the truck driver who caused the crash on the Eastern Freeway in which four police died has pleaded guilty to failing to comply with his duty of safety and exposing the officers to a risk of death or injury by allowing his employee to drive.

More than 3½ years after the crash, Simiona Tuteru pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning to one charge of failing to comply with his duty under the heavy vehicle laws.

Simiona Tuteru outside court in 2020.Credit: Simon Schluter

The charge stated that despite his duty under these laws, Tuteru engaged in conduct on April 22, 2020, that “exposed individuals, including but not limited to [police officers] Lynette Taylor, Kevin King, Glen Humphris, Joshua Prestney and [truck driver] Mohinder Singh to a risk of death or serious injury and the accused was reckless as to that risk”.

Tuteru had been charged with knowing that Singh, whom he supervised, was unfit to drive on that day but allowing him to get behind the wheel. Singh pleaded guilty to four counts of culpable driving causing death relating to his part in the crash and is serving an 18-year sentence.

On Wednesday, Tuteru stood in the dock in the Supreme Court and when asked how he pleaded, replied “guilty”.

The court was told the former Connect Logistics manager is now working as a repairman. He remains on bail and will face a pre-sentence hearing on February 6.

Senior Constable Kevin King (left), Constable Josh Prestney, Leading Senior Constable Lynette Taylor and Constable Glen Humphris were killed on the Eastern Freeway in 2020.Credit: Victoria Police

An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes in April revealed Tuteru, who prayed with Singh at the Lyndhurst truck depot before allowing him to drive, was a dedicated senior leader and former pastor in a small but devout Pentecostal church.

The Potter’s House Christian Fellowship links physical ailments to different sins and curses and uses praying and healing rituals to cast out the devil and cure members from illness and “curses” causing them harm.

Tuteru’s sentencing in February will mark the end of protracted legal proceedings in which he was originally charged with four counts of manslaughter.

The manslaughter charges were dropped with little explanation by the Director of Public Prosecutions last year.

The single charge of failing to comply with his duty under heavy vehicle laws remained, but Supreme Court judge Lex Lasry granted a permanent stay in March on that charge, ruling the prosecution had abused the court process. Permanent stays are only granted in exceptional circumstances.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, SC, appealed against Lasry’s decision, and in August, the permanent stay was set aside by the Court of Appeal. Three Court of Appeal judges said they were unable to see any basis on which a permanent stay could have been ordered.

Tuteru had sought a sentence indication last week to understand what penalty he would be likely to face if he pleaded guilty and the matter did not proceed to trial.

With AAP

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