A South Australian teenager, who went on trial over a triple fatal car crash, has been found not guilty of dangerous driving charges but guilty of lesser offences.
Millicent residents Ned and Nan Walker and their adult daughter Sue Skeer died in a head-on collision involving their Ford Territory and a Toyota Landcruiser on the Princes Highway at Suttontown, in SA's southeast, in November 2020.
The boy's four-day trial in Mount Gambier wound up in June. He was 16 at the time of the crash and driving on a learner's licence.
In a verdict handed down in the Youth Court on Friday, Judge Penny Eldridge found him not guilty of three counts of causing death and four counts of causing harm by dangerous driving.
However, she found him guilty on multiple counts of driving without due care and attention, including some aggravated offences causing death and serious harm.
In her verdict, Judge Eldridge accepted the consequences of the crash were catastrophic but said they did not determine how the teen's driving was to be categorised.
"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant momentarily lost concentration while driving and whilst ascending the crest in the hill the Toyota Landcruiser moved briefly to the incorrect side of the road," the judge said.
"I find that prior to the impact the defendant had corrected his position and had moved to the correct side of the road.
"Tragically, in an effort to avoid the Toyota Landcruiser, the driver of the Ford Territory had moved to the incorrect side of the road."
In the circumstances, Judge Eldridge said the prosecution had failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the teen had been driving in a manner dangerous to any person.
During the trial a prosecutor had argued that the collision was caused entirely by the presence of the defendant's vehicle on the wrong side of the road before impact.
The court was told the teen's driving was a grave departure from the standard of care required and went beyond what could properly be described as driving without due care.
But defence counsel said while the accident happened because the defendant lost concentration and drifted to the wrong side of the road, he had corrected his position before the collision.
It was submitted that while the teen's driving was bad, the prosecution had not come close to proving it amounted to dangerous driving.
The teenager will face sentencing submissions in September.