Nicholas Parker’s dangerous driving conviction quashed over death of dads Geoff Havill and Chris Culver

A P-plater who fell asleep at the wheel, killing two cyclists and beloved fathers, has had a huge court win as his conviction over the deaths was quashed.

Days before Christmas in 2019, Nicholas Parker was driving to his electrical apprenticeship in Sydney’s northwest shortly before 5am when he swerved onto the wrong side of the road and fatally hit cyclists Geoff Havill and Chris Culver.

According to a witness account referenced in a Court of Criminal Appeal judgment, a shocked Parker said to a bystander at the scene that he fell asleep, and asked “Did I hit any other cars?”

Moments later, the then 19-year-old learned the devastating news that he had collided with the two dads.

In a judge-alone trial, Parker was found not guilty of two counts of dangerous driving causing death but was found guilty of the backup offence of negligent driving causing death and sentenced to 12 months in prison to be served by way of an intensive correction order (ICO).

Throughout the trial, Parker did not dispute that he had fallen asleep or that he veered across the road and hit the cyclists, but argued he’d held an honest and reasonable – albeit mistaken – belief that it was safe for him to drive.

In a police statement tendered to court, which was made weeks after the crash, Parker explained why he felt it was safe to drive.

He said he arrived home from work at 6pm the night before the crash, had dinner and went to bed about 10.30pm.

“I felt that I had a good sleep that night,” he wrote in his statement.

“I got out of bed about 4am the following morning … I had a shower. I had breakfast. I was refreshed and alert before leaving home”.

Parker, who’d received his P-plates three months prior to the crash, told police he left his home about 4.40am and was “in a fit state to drive safely to work,” adding this was his “normal routine”.

“I usually drove to work in the early hours of the morning around the same time. In all of my previous morning drives to work I never had any problems driving,” he said.

“On this date, I was in the same mental and physical condition as my previous driving journeys to work in the mornings”.

At the Criminal Court of Appeal on Monday, Judge Robert Beech-Jones, Judge Hament Dhanji and Judge Nicholas Chen ruled the guilty verdict was unreasonable because the Crown failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Parker did not hold the honest belief that it was safe to drive.

They acquitted Parker of his conviction and did not order a retrial, noting he had already served his 12-month ICO and it was “unthinkable” that he could be punished further.

Mr Havill, 49, died at the scene of the crash, while 40-year-old Mr Culver died in hospital.

The pair were husbands, fathers and members of the North Western Sydney Cycling Club.

In a Facebook post following their deaths, Cycling NSW said they “left partners and children who have suffered unspeakable loss”.

A GoFundMe page set up for Mr Havill’s family raised $38,620.

Its description read the mates left their home on the morning of the crash to go on their “usual early morning cycle”.

“Unfortunately, this was to be their last ride”.

Comments flooded the GoFundMe page in memory of the “lovely” man,” whose funeral notice read: “Forever going on a roll”.

Mr Culver was remembered as a “much-loved” father.

“Chris was a wonderful husband and father, and a great friend whose loss will be greatly felt,” Kim Stokeld, who established the Chris Culver Memorial Fund for his wife and children, wrote.

“Chris had a passion for cycling and loved his time pedalling the roads with a few mates. It was doing the sport that he loved so much that he was involved in a terrible accident that tragically ended his life too soon.”

Alongside the trials for dangerous and negligent driving, Parker pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of not keeping left of the dividing line and was fined $1000.

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