Driver 'in own prison' after cop's death

·3-min read

A father who ran a red light in Sydney and killed an off-duty police officer will likely be spared jail time but remains "in his own prison," haunted by the reality of his split-second decision.

Tommy Balla, 38, was sentenced to a two-year intensive correction order after crashing his ute into Constable Aaron Vidal's motorcycle on June 18, 2020, in Sydney's Hills District.

The 28-year-old expectant father was on his way home to his wife Jessica Loh, who earlier told the court she received news of their baby's gender minutes after saying goodbye to her husband at a funeral home.

"I ran back in and held his hand, telling him we're having a boy," Ms Loh said.

The four-year army veteran died at the intersection of Windsor and Schofields roads in Rouse Hill following Balla's panicked split-second decision "do I go or do I stay?".

His father Chief Inspector David Vidal said Balla's selfish actions had stripped him of his best friend and passion for policing.

"I know he didn't do it with intention (of killing Aaron)," he said.

"But no one on the roads today does not know the potential running a red light could and, in this case, did have."

The tradie was never able to explain his honest but unreasonable belief that the light was still amber when he began making his fatal right-hand turn, Judge Stephen Hanley told the NSW District Court on Monday.

Dashcam footage showed the light had been red for about two seconds.

"I am satisfied it occurred as a result of his inattentiveness," Judge Hanley said.

The motorcyclist was entitled to the reasonable expectation the intersection would have been clear from motor vehicles performing illegal manoeuvres to safely cross, he found

But the judge accepted Mr Vidal had been "lane filtering" above the safe speed limit when he was weaving through traffic to get ahead of cars, and this contributed to the circumstances surrounding the crash.

Judge Hanley accepted Balla had shown genuine and profound remorse rarely seen in court and that he will remain "in his own prison unless he can find a way out".

The father-of-two told a psychologist the crash had "completely broken me" and that he had learned a very cruel life lesson that "things can change rapidly for the worse in a split second".

The haunting reality of this will follow him for the rest of his life, he said, while offering to share his story as a message how breaking road rules can "ruin lives very quickly".

The fact that Mr Vidal never got to meet his newborn baby was something that for Balla as a father "truly pains him deeply," the court was told.

Mr Vidal was described as a larger-than-life warm-hearted, funny and endearing young man.

The profound, senseless and unnecessary loss of his life to his family and the community was acknowledged by the judge.

"Hopefuly all affected will not be anchored to this for the rest of their lives," Judge Hanley said.

Balla's early pleading of guilty to dangerous driving occasioning death, excellent prospects of rehabilitation and clear criminal history weighed in favour of his sentencing.

He was also not deemed a future risk to the community as he would unlikely ever re-offend again.

Some "intrusive and sensationalised" media reporting of the case was condemned by the judge who said it had significantly affected the offender.

If the detention assessment report does not find in favour of an ICO Balla will be sent into custody, with a non-parole period yet to be determined.

The matter will return to court on August 20.

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