Man drove truck onto porch where people were praying

Reckless act caused slight injures to four people

Robustiano Torrez, 64, received a suspended sentence last week after pleading guilty to one charge of doing a reckless act and four charges of common assault. 

The reckless act was driving his truck onto a porch where people were gathered for a prayer meeting. Torrez was originally charged with four counts of assault causing actual bodily harm, but pleas were accepted to the lesser charges because the injuries were minor. 

Senior Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban-Jackson said the incident occurred on 4 June, 2011, at a property owned by Torrez’ wife. Around 8pm, a prayer meeting was being held there. There was a history of disagreement between Torrez and one of the men present and on this occasion they had an argument. Torrez left the scene and the man made a complaint to police. 

Torrez returned shortly afterward in a pick-up truck. He drove onto the porch, where several people were praying.  

Some of them had to jump out of the way of the truck to avoid being hit, but in the process four of them received minor injuries. 

When police arrived, Torrez had already gone home and was found there sleeping. He acknowledged he had been drinking earlier. Photos were taken of where the vehicle came to rest. 

Three days later, the truck was checked by a qualified 
vehicle inspector, who paid special attention to the brakes, steering and accelerator. He concluded that no mechanical defects were involved in the 
collision of the vehicle with the porch. 

When Torrez was interviewed, he said he had been having problems with the truck, so that he had to keep one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator to keep the engine running. He said he had consumed three beers that evening. His reason for going to the yard with his truck was to pick up some zinc. He said the truck just accelerated. 

Defence attorney Fiona Robertson referred to the social inquiry report that had been prepared and which indicated Torrez’ remorse. The basis of his pleas was that he accepted his act was reckless, whether the vehicles was defective or not. The level of injuries was relatively minor – some scratches and strained muscles, she said. 

The report touched on his health issues, including a deteriorating illness. He would suffer or struggle with a custodial sentence, the attorney said. Now retired from a tourism-related job, he was able to do some landscaping. 

Torrez had gone to his insurers four times to try to get them to assist with payment of medical bills, but without success, she advised the court. 

Chief Magistrate Nova Hall said this was a reckless act that could have had tragic consequences. Despite Torrez’ previous good character, this offending behaviour would have attracted a short custodial sentence. 

The social inquiry report stated that he was at a low risk of re-offending and community service had been suggested as an alternative to imprisonment, she noted. 

But given the health issues emphasised by Ms Robinson, a community service order might set him up for failure and a breach would lead to imprisonment, the magistrate pointed out. On that basis, and taking a totality approach, she imposed a sentence of six months on each of the five charges, making them run together and suspending the six-month total sentence for two years. 

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