The boss of a trucking company involved in the tragic road deaths of four Victoria police officers was aware of workplace safety breaches but believed they had been resolved, a court has heard.
Connect Logistics and Corey Matthews pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges brought by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator related to failure to properly monitor driver fatigue and drug and alcohol use.
Mohinder Singh was high on methamphetamine and sleep deprived when his semi-trailer crashed into officers who had stopped a speeding Porsche driven by Richard Pusey on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway in April 2020.
Singh is serving more than 18 years behind bars for his role in the crash.
Constable Glen Humphris, Senior Constable Kevin King, Senior Constable Lynette Taylor and Constable Josh Prestney all died in the Eastern Highway crash (pictured left to right)
In Sydney’s Downing Center Local Court on Friday, Matthews was personally fined $22,500, while now-defunct Connect Logistics was ordered to pay a total of $2,310,000.
The two sanctions represent less than half of what could have been imposed by the court.
As head of the Sydney-based company, Matthews admitted failing to do due diligence to ensure his drivers were compliant.
At the time of the accident, Connect held a lucrative contract with poultry supplier Inghams, delivering chickens to KFCs and supermarkets in the Melbourne metropolitan area, as well as transporting slaughtered animals to processing plants.
NHVR prosecutor Jennifer Single told the court in the months before the crash that Inghams had raised concerns about the drivers’ working hours, believing they exceeded the legal limit of 12 hours a day.
Four months before the accident, Inghams filed a formal complaint regarding Melbourne supervisor and driver Simiona Tuteru, whose timesheets repeatedly indicated he worked between 18 and 20 hours a day.
Mohinder Singh (pictured) was high on methamphetamine and sleep deprived when his semi-trailer crashed into officers who had stopped a speeding Porsche driven by Richard Pusey on Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway in April 2020.
Matthews was informed of the problem and sent national leaders Cris Large and Shane Chalmers to Victoria to deal with it, the court was told.
Following the intervention, Tuteru continued to work longer hours, but instead of putting timesheets in his own name, he began putting them in the names of other drivers, the court.
Connect and Matthews’ lawyer, Trish McDonald, said that although Large and Chalmers would have known about the falsified timesheets, Matthews did not know and thought the problem had been resolved.
“He should have gone back and checked that everything was OK,” Ms McDonald told the court.
“He failed to exercise due diligence to ensure the company met its obligations.”
Pictured are emergency services at the scene of the accident in April 2020.
Magistrate John Arms questioned the extent to which not knowing about the breaches worked in Matthews’ favor, given he was ultimately responsible for them.
“Are you suggesting to me that every CEO puts their hands over their ears and eyes and has no accountability? He asked.
“He knew there was a problem, he took the word of someone who was in the problem and did nothing more.”
The officers killed in the 2020 crash were Senior Constable Lynette Taylor, Senior Constable Glen Humphris, Senior Constable Kevin King and Senior Constable Josh Prestney.
Const Prestney’s mother Belinda, who traveled from Victoria for the hearing, told the court police officers, like her son, put themselves in dangerous situations to protect others.
“No one should have to worry that they or their loved one won’t come home from work,” Ms Prestney said.
“Nothing is more important or more precious than human life. Once it is gone, it cannot be retrieved.