Shepparton hit-and-run victim didn’t know if he would walk again, court hears

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Hit-and-run: A man pleaded guilty to intentionally causing injury after he hit a 22-year-old with his car in Shepparton. Photo by AAP Photo

A 22-year-old man told a court he woke up in an ambulance “not knowing if [he] was going to walk again”, after a Shepparton man intentionally hit him with his car on Wyndham St.

The victim was struck from behind by then 34-year-old Hitesh Guha, an unlicensed driver who had been drinking with colleagues before the incident about 2.30am on March 15, 2020.

Guha, now 36, pleaded guilty at Shepparton County Court on June 22 to intentionally causing injury and summary charges of failing to render assistance, dangerous driving, unlicensed driving and breaching a conduct condition of bail.

The court heard Guha, who was on a bridging visa, knocked off work as a chef at the Terminus Hotel in Shepparton about 10pm on March 14 and stayed to drink alcohol with some colleagues.

The trio continued drinking at Club Rawhide before finishing up just after 2am, with Guha driving his colleagues in his blue Holden Commodore, despite his driver’s licence having expired in July 2019.

On Fryers St the car quickly approached the intersection with Wyndham St, attempting to turn left, but came to a stop near four pedestrians who were crossing the street — the traffic lights were green for both Guha and the pedestrians.

One of the pedestrians called out to Guha and said, “piss off mate, it’s a green light, let us walk”.

A verbal argument ensued between the two groups and the victim slapped Guha in the face through the car window before he was pulled away by one of his friends and they both began walking back to their group.

Guha performed a U-turn with his tyres screeching as he accelerated and crossed four lanes of Wyndham St before accelerating towards the victim, with the front left of his car hitting the victim in the back of the legs as he was walking away.

The victim flew five to six metres through the air, landing on the footpath on the west side of Wyndham St, while Guha drove off through a red light, turning on to Fryers St.

The victim was taken to Goulburn Valley Base Hospital with bleeding on the brain, a skull fracture, retrograde amnesia, bruising and abrasions.

In a victim impact statement, the 22-year-old said he was still suffering with anxiety over what had happened and he was scared to leave the house for some time after the incident.

He said he had to take three weeks off work and many of his relationships had been affected.

When Guha was arrested on March 23 he told police, “If I’ve hit him it might be by accident but I haven’t hit anyone purposely.”

He was released on bail with conditions including not to contact any witnesses for the prosecution except for the relevant police officer, but breached this in August 2020 when he spoke to a witness who had provided a statement to police.

Guha called out to him while they were both in the car park of the Terminus Hotel, saying “you gave a statement about me ... you got me into trouble”.

The court heard Guha had two previous court appearances for unlawful assault and two for driving-related offences.

Guha’s solicitor Alexis Buckley told the court the offending was “unexplainable and serious” and submitted it could be dealt with by way of a community corrections order.

She said Guha had significant mental health issues, had pleaded guilty at a relatively early stage and had good prospects of rehabilitation.

Ms Buckley also told the court Guha was engaged to be married and had a four-month-old child, and was at risk of deportation to India if he was sentenced to jail for more than 12 months.

Guha will be assessed for a community corrections order and return for sentencing at a later date.