A Melbourne magistrate who drove off after smashing into the back off a parked ute has got off with a $650 donation and a letter of apology, avoiding a criminal conviction.
On October 26 last year, Richard Pithouse was driving through Spotswood in his Ford Territory when he smashed into a Hilux, denting and scratching the ute and breaking its rear tail light.
Instead of stopping, Pithouse, who's been driving for 42 years with an unblemished record, drove away across the West Gate Bridge with his own side mirror broken off.
Later that night, he handed himself in at an inner-suburban police station and was charged with failing to stop after an accident.
Meanwhile, a witness who saw the incident and wrote down his registration number contacted the vehicle owner.
Pithouse was sentenced to undergo a diversion program on Wednesday by Ian Guy, a NSW magistrate flown into Melbourne to handle the case.
Pithouse indicated he wished to donate the $650 to depression charity Beyond Blue after "much-loved" colleague, magistrate Stephen Myall, died earlier this month.
Defence lawyer Peter Morrissey SC told the court the Hilux owner was happy for Pithouse to be dealt with by a diversion program, where the matter is dealt with out of the court system and allows the defendant to avoid a criminal conviction.
When asked why he didn't stop, Mr Morrissey said Pithouse was "surprised and shocked" after hearing a "very loud bang" from the crash.
"He acknowledges responsibility," Mr Morrissey said.
"However surprised and shocked he was by the collision, he should have turned back.
"He does wish to acknowledge that magistrates have a responsibility to uphold the law and be an exemplar."
Mr Guy said he did not see the offence as being at the "high end of the scale".
"He has what could be described as an impressive traffic record," he said.
"Because he is a magistrate, the penalties don't go up. And because he's a magistrate, it should not disentitle him to some amount of leniency through the diversion program that might otherwise exist."
Mr Guy added Pithouse should have been aware of his responsibilities at law.
Pithouse was not suspended from his job, but precluded from presiding over traffic matters until his case was finalised.
Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.