Judge slams penalties for drivers on mobiles in emotional hit-and-run sentencing

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The family of Zacharias Andreou (right) broke down outside court. Source: Twitter/7 News.

A judge has used the sentencing of a hit-and-run driver to slam penalties for using mobile phones while driving, reportedly branding them “totally inadequate”.

Georges Youssef Geagea, 51, was sentenced to at least four years and two months behind bars in Parramatta District Court for a horrific 2016 hit-and-run crash that left 73-year-old grandad Zacharias Andreou dead.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Andreou’s family, including his wife and daughter, were left sobbing in court as it was revealed that Geagea – who previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death and failing to stop after a fatal collision – crashed into him before driving off and leaving him to die.

Judge Andrew Colefax explained to the court that he couldn’t prove beyond reasonable doubt that Geagea had been using his mobile phone while driving before the collision at Condell Park in Sydney’s south west – therefore it couldn’t be factored into his sentencing.

However, he reportedly added: “I suspect that may be an explanation… there being no other that occurs to me.”

It prompted him to hit out at current penalties for drivers using their phones behind the wheel, claiming they’re “totally inadequate – but that is a matter for another venue and another case”.

Andreou was reportedly described in court as a “hard working man” and a “beloved grandfather,” who “left his house for the last time” at around 4pm on December 28, 2016.

The judge then detailed his final movements, describing how he walked out of his home, crossed the road to his parked van and opened the door.

“There was no traffic on the road… no adverse weather conditions and you were driving your van… between 57 and 61km/hr,” he told Geagea, according to Nine News.

“You collided with Mr Andreou, and you killed him… You must have been aware of this collision because of the damage caused to your vehicle.”

He added: “You drove off, leaving Mr Andreou on the road… Witnesses and residents heard the impact and came to help but you did not and he died on the road.”

The news outlet reports Andreou’s elderly wife Myroulla was seen sobbing in court as the details were read out, supported by her daughter and son.

The judge then went on to detail how Geagea tried to sell his van and buy a similar-looking new one to cover his tracks, before even lying to police and claiming it had been stolen.

“Even when the police came… you persisted in your disgraceful abandonment of responsibility, and you lied. You told police it has been stolen,” the judge added, according to Nine.

“However police were not fooled by this feeble lie of yours and the game was up.”

Geagea’s barrister Gregory Stanton SC reportedly told the court he was a “good man, a family man”, as several members of his family gathered in court to watch the sentencing.

In a written victim impact statement, Andreou’s wife Myroulla said her life was now “empty” following her husband’s death and reportedly added: “I can still hear the bang ringing in my ears. I miss him so much, he was taken from me, I have lost everything.”

Myroulla later appeared outside court, visibly upset on camera, as her daughter Maria told reporters: “We are just trying to stick together cos my dad was the one that held us always together.”

She added: “I just miss him, we all miss him and I know now we can say yeah ok it’s over, but it’s not really over because he’s not here.”

Geagea will be eligible for parole on August 18, 2023.

Have you been following this story? Do you think there needs to be tougher punishments for dangerous drivers?

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