Truck driver convicted of road rage attack on Norman Hughes — (The Courier and Mail)

SSRI Ed note: Man starts Effexor, becomes irritable, aggressive, assaults elderly man in road rage incident, loses driving license.

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The Courier and Mail

Tristan Swanwick

March 13, 2009 02:30pm

A LONG-haul truck driver with a history of violent assaults bashed a former Australian rugby player in a road rage attack, a court was told.

Peter Cedric Whiting, 47, yesterday pleaded guilty in the Brisbane District Court yesterday to seriously assaulting former Wallaby great Norman Hughes, 79, in March 2007.

The court was told Hughes was driving along Kingsford Smith Drive on his way to an early morning swim when he noticed a truck tail-gating him.

He slowed down before giving the driver an offensive double-fingered gesture, the court was told.

Prosecutor Kris Ashen said Whiting overtook Hughes’ vehicle before stopping at a red light at the intersection of Kingsford Smith Drive and Breakfast Creek Rd. Hughes pulled up directly behind.

The truck driver got out of his vehicle and approached Mr Hughes yelling, “I’m sick of people like you holding me up”, before reaching through the window and grabbing the elderly man by the shirt, Mr Ashen said.

He then punched Hughes four times in the face.

Whiting, of Jimboomba, south of Brisbane, later told police he had been “pissed off, annoyed”, and felt Hughes “should not have been on the road”, the court was told.

Mr Ashen said Hughes’ life had been greatly affected by the incident, becoming isolated and withdrawn as a result of his fear of strangers.

He said Whiting, pictured, was currently facing charges related to similar violent road-rage incidents in the Beenleigh Magistrate’s and Beenleigh District courts, including ramming the back of a woman’s car while her young son was inside.

Whiting’s lawyer said her client had been a long-haul driver for over 25 years but had only encountered problems with the law since 2000, when he began to take the anti-depressant drug Effexor.

She said known side-effects of the drug included increased aggression, hostility and reduced impulse control.

Judge Leanne Clare, SC, told Whiting the lack of self-control he had displayed was “startling”.

“It is a reprehensible set of circumstances,” she said.

She sentenced him to a 12-month intensive correction order and disqualified him from holding or applying for a driver’s licence absolutely. She ordered a conviction be recorded.