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Home detention for police death to remain

An appeal to increase the sentence of a profoundly remorseful man who killed an off-duty police officer has been dismissed.

Sydney tradie Tommy Balla, 38, was sentenced to what effectively amounts to two years of home detention after crashing his ute into Constable Aaron Vidal’s motorcycle on June 18, 2020, in Sydney’s Hills District.

The 28-year-old victim was on his way home to his pregnant wife Jessica Loh.

Prosecutors appealed the sentence, arguing it was manifestly inadequate and Judge Stephen Hanley had erred by not finding Balla deliberately went through the red light.

Balla had never been able to explain his belief that the light was still amber when he began making his fatal right-hand turn as oncoming traffic began to move.

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

The appeal was dismissed on Thursday by the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal.

Despite the enormity of the offence’s consequence, the sentence appropriately reflected the “unexceptionable” findings about how the collision occured and the “extremely powerful” subjective case.

“It was well open to the sentencing judge to reject the proposition that the respondent – a man of unblemished character; a good driving record; profound remorse; and who had had his young child in the Triton with him – was committing perjury when he denied that this was anything other than a tragic miscalculation,” Justice Richard Button said.

Balla, a father-of-two, told a psychologist the crash had “completely broken” him and that he had learned a very cruel life lesson that “things can change rapidly for the worse in a split second”.

Justice Stephen Rothman said even if the Crown was right about Balla’s intentions, “the gist” of the crime was that he saw the amber light and misjudged the time he had to make the turn.

“This case, if the Crown analysis were correct, is a tragic lesson for those who decide to travel through amber lights, when they have time to stop,” Justice Rothman concluded.

Balla’s intensive corrections order, which includes 400 hours of community service, expires in August 2023.

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