By PAOLA TOTARO of The Sydney Morning Herald
Many lives revolve around a roster. But one essential workforce is letting a lot of people down. Paola Totaro reports.
IT WAS 5.20am on a crisp April morning last year and Phil Redpath, a scientist and 'rev head from way back' was enjoying the open road in his new, $60,000 metallic blue Monaro.
Cruising comfortably at 100 kmh, he was heading north driving around a bend in the Pacific Highway just south of Buladelah when a truck laden with logs roared past in the opposite direction.
In the split seconds that followed, Mr Redpath, a regional ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources, clearly remembers seeing a massive woodchip log coming directly at him: "It slid under my car like a scythe ... the truck was doing 100 and I was doing 100 kmh so the estimated closing speed was 200 kilometres an hour."
The impact of the log threw the car into the air, rolled it onto the roof, the car then bounced upside down off the road and was projected into a guard rail. Airborne once again, it bounced finally landing on its roof and slid into the southbound lane. The distance between where the log hit Mr Redpath's car and where he ended up coming to rest was just 45m.
Miraculously, Mr Redpath was conscious when the car landed and managed to remove his seatbelt still upside down and pull himself from the wreckage through the driver's window.
So began a six month nightmare for the Grafton public servant, one in which he escaped a hit and run accident with his life but which came rushing back to haunt him this week after the Herald published a series of stories reporting criticism of the so-called 12-hour block rostering for general duties police in NSW.
"When I read the stories about the impact of the rosters and how difficult it is to get continuity of service or even contact relevant police officers, I realised what may have happened in my case," he said. "Initial police interaction was great, but as time progressed, I couldn't contact the investigating officer. During the following six months, that officer was either on stress, sick or recreational leave or at training courses for three of the six months allowed for such investigations to be completed."
Mr Redpath logged and took notes of many of the phone calls over the months that followed but as time passed, he became increasingly frustrated. While initial police investigations revealed the truck may have been part of a small convoy travelling south and two drivers attended Taree police station later on the morning of the crash, little was followed up.
And finally, it was too late: "Yes, in a serious incident such as I've described, there is a six month statute of limitations on how long such a criminal act can be legally investigated. Not surprisingly no-one was charged because of the lack of evidence and/or witnesses. I would suggest that in addition to these factors, it's highly likely the lack of continuity in policing and the three month absence of the principal investigating officer also played a significant role in the failed investigation."
Letters requesting specific information from the Police Commissioner and the Ombudsman about the investigation, the conduct of the officer with regard to time off and the policies for dealing with such absences have not yielded any satisfaction: "So much for justice for law abiding taxpayers," he