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Cop to fight charges over Indigenous teen's fatal crash

Miklos Bolza -

A sergeant accused of dangerous driving after his unmarked police car was involved in a crash that killed an Indigenous teen will fight to the "ends of the earth" to clear his name.

Benedict Bryant was behind the wheel when Jai Kalani Wright rode a trail bike into the vehicle in inner-city Sydney on February 19, 2022.

The 16-year-old was thrown off his bike and suffered critical head injuries, dying at Prince Alfred Hospital the following day.

Bryant was charged in February after a coroner referred the matter to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions.

His case came before Downing Centre Local Court for the first time on Thursday, when his lawyer Paul McGirr said the officer would plead not guilty to two charges.

Bryant faces one count of dangerous driving occasioning death and a backup count of negligent driving occasioning death.

Speaking to reporters outside court, Mr McGirr said the allegations would be "strongly defended".

"My client holds his head up high and he will be contesting this to the ends of the earth in respect to clearing his name," he said.

Mr McGirr said police prosecutors had refused to take the matter and expressed surprise at why the DPP decided to pursue it.

"There are some tragic circumstances surrounding (the incident) but I really do shake my head and ask what's going on at the DPP for this matter to even be proceeding."

Sometimes tragedies happened and someone could not always be blamed for it, he added.

Mr McGirr said his client continued to work as a police officer and was trying to get on with his life, supported by his colleagues.

"Of course (the criminal case) is always in the background but we're on his side and we'll be defending him."

In court, crown prosecutor Nicholas Leach asked for certain bail conditions to be imposed, as there was a concern Bryant would not show up in court or could interfere with witnesses.

Magistrate Margaret Quinn ordered the sergeant to live at a residential address in Sydney's eastern suburbs, not to contact prosecution witnesses and to be of good behaviour while the proceedings were on foot.

Bryant had not been under any bail conditions since being charged in February.

At a January inquest into the teenager's death, the coroner heard the bike Jai was riding had been stolen, along with a black Mercedes and a white BMW, about 7am on the day of the collision.

CCTV and in-car video footage played to the coroner's court showed an unmarked silver Holden Commodore sedan swing around in front of the bike, which then hit the police car at high speed.

NSW State Coroner Teresa O'Sullivan ultimately suspended the inquest and referred the matter to the DPP.

Bryant's criminal case will be back at the Downing Centre on May 16.

He will not personally appear in court on that date.

Miklos Bolza - AAP


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