A Sydney taxi driver who accidentally killed his uncle by running him over with a van could be back behind the wheel within days after a judge quashed his negligent driving conviction.
The Downing Centre District court heard on Wednesday that Steven Heretakis, an experienced taxi driver from south-west Sydney, hit his uncle on July 24 last year when, while moving a van at the older man's home, he mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake.
"When he looked up he saw his uncle standing directly in front of the van," Judge Peter Berman said in handing down his decision.
"Mr Heretakis didn't or couldn't explain why the vehicle then travelled at high speed, causing his uncle's death.
"However it seems fairly clear that, in the heat of the moment, Mr Heretakis has applied his foot to the accelerator rather than the brake."
Last September, the taxi driver was convicted of negligent driving occasioning death, given an 18-month good behaviour bond and disqualified from driving for 12 months.
However he appealed the decision, asking the District Court not to record a conviction against him because of the severe financial pressure he and his family were experiencing as a result of the driving disqualification.
"We're living on the overdraft of our mortgage," Mr Heretakis told the court.
"I was hoping that I could actually drive again."
The police prosecutor in the matter opposed Mr Heretakis' request, citing a number of previous traffic infringements including speeding tickets and the need for a conviction to be recorded "when a death is occasioned".
However, Judge Berman allowed the appeal, quashing the taxi driver's conviction and allowing him to recommence driving on the condition that he not commit any offences, including driving offences, for two years.
He cited both the financial and emotional impact on the driver.
"Mr Heretakis mourns deeply the loss of his uncle and the [resultant] fracturing of his family is obviously a matter that upsets him greatly," Judge Berman said.
"Ordinarily one would expect a conviction to follow a offence of this kind, if for no other reason than to mark the gravity of what has occurred," Judge Berman said.
"Here, Mr Heretakis' negligent driving caused a death and one might expect it would be a difficult proposition to argue that in such a case a conviction shouldn't be imposed. However, the sentencing statistics reveal that such an outcome isn't uncommon."
With the conviction and licence suspension quashed, Mr Heretakis is now free to reapply for his licence and return to his job as a taxi driver.