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Buswell charged over Subiaco crashes

Former treasurer and transport minister Troy Buswell. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

WA Police have charged Troy Buswell with 11 driving offences out of the incident that saw the former treasurer allegedly drive his car home after several hours of drinking at a Kings Park wedding.

Mr Buswell avoided drink driving charges after police today wrapped up an investigation sparked when The West Australian and Seven News published details of Mr Buswell’s alleged behaviour in the early hours of February 23.

Mr Buswell was this afternoon charged by summons with three counts of failing to stop at a traffic crash, four counts of failing to report a traffic crash and four counts of careless driving.

“WA Police commenced an investigation last month into a number of reported traffic crashes in Subiaco in the early hours of February 23, 2014,” a spokeswoman for Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan said.

“During the course of the investigation, police also sought independent legal advice from the State Solicitor’s Office.

“Police have concluded their investigation into the matter and today charged a 48-year-old man by summons in connection with the series of crashes.

“Police will allege the man drove in a careless manner and as a result of his driving, crashed into cars parked on Olive Street and Barker Road causing damage to four vehicles and a Telstra pole.

“It will be further alleged that the man failed to stop at these traffic crashes and failed to report the crashes to police.”

Mr Buswell resigned from the Barnett ministry at 4pm on Sunday, March 9, just hours after The West Australian and Seven News asked questions about the events of February 23.

On February 24, Mr Buswell went on unexplained personal leave that was later revealed by the Premier to be “health related”.

On March 10, Colin Barnett revealed Mr Buswell had suffered “a breakdown”, had been receiving hospital care in Perth and Sydney, and had resigned from Cabinet.

Shortly after midnight on February 23, guests from a Kings Park wedding reception filed into taxis and chauffer-driven vans and made their way home.

Mr Buswell declined to do so, instead wandering off down a driveway and into the night.

When he called the Premier on March 9 to offer his resignation, Mr Buswell could not explain his decision to get behind the wheel of his ministerial car, a white Holden Caprice, and drive.

“Troy stressed to me last night he is making no excuses whatsoever," the Premier said on March 10.

“He repeated that several times and he can provide no logical explanation for his behaviour.”

The only reason the public knows what happened on that night is that a witness to his alleged behaviour approached The West Australian and Seven News on Saturday to say what he saw.

The witness, who was driving with a friend down Roberts Road, Subiaco, and had to hit his brakes to avoid a collision, made a detailed call to police at 1.28am to describe the erratic driving of a white Holden Caprice.

Officers arrived at the Roberts Road address described by the witness within seven minutes, but by then the car was parked behind a high gate and there was no sign of its driver.

Police did not follow up with the witness – or the owners of parked cars that had been damaged on the same night in Olive Street and Barker Road – until details of the evening were published two weeks later.

Mr Buswell remains on personal leave and has been spending most of his time in his home town of Busselton in recent weeks.

Mr Barnett has said he hopes to return to the Parliament as the Member for Vasse.

If convicted, Mr Buswell faces a potential $600 fine for each offence of careless driving and a $1500 fine for each count of failing to stop at a crash. The penalty for failing to report a traffic crash is a $400 fine.

Mr Buswell will not fall foul of rules of the Parliament, which disqualify an MP from holding office if they are convicted of a crime for which the penalty is imprisonment of five years or more.

Mr Barnett’s office was contacted for comment.

“Late today I was made aware via police media release that Troy Buswell has been charged with various traffic offences," Mr Barnett said.

“The matter is being handled by WA Police and is now before the courts and I don’t intend to make further comment.”

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said: “There are still serious questions to be answered in relation to what senior staff in the Premier’s office, the Treasurer’s office, and in other senior levels of Government knew about the alleged events of that evening.”

Mr Barnett has said staff members in his office first learnt of a driving incident on March 9, after The West Australian and Seven News made inquiries.

Mr Buswell’s chief-of-staff, Rachael Turnseck, knew about damage to the Holden Caprice but did not tell Mr Barnett’s staff about it.

She resigned from the WA Government last Friday.