A “high level sportswoman” has won permanent name suppression and a discharge without conviction, despite being caught drink driving with twice the legal level of alcohol in her system.
The Gisborne Herald reported Friday the decision by the Gisborne Court to act leniently was
“partly because it would affect her ability to compete overseas“
In a decision that is going to be seen as NZ’s two-tier legal system again giving special dispensation to people with overseas profiles (usually those in the entertainment and sporting industries) it was revealed that despite having no previous convictions, the sportswoman was tested as having just over twice the legal level of alcohol in her breath – 801mcg. The limit is 400mcg in New Zealand but that drops to zero for people under the age of 20.
The penalty for being over 400mcg is up to three months in prison, a fine of up to $4,500 loss of licence for 6 months. If over 800mcg the court may impose an alcohol interlock disqualification with an accompanying three months disqualification period as an alternative. source NZTA
The Herald wrote
“Judge (Graham) Hubble said defence counsel Marcia Insley‘s application for a discharge was persuasive.
She said her client had reached an exceptional level in her sport and had been offered a chance to compete overseas again.
Judge Hubble said he was mindful of occasions when, for instance, New Zealand representative rugby players had been refused entry to Canada because of similar drink-driving convictions.” more here
There is no hint in the article whether ‘Ms High Level Sportswoman’ has to complete any community service or undertake drink driving re-education, nor is there any indication of whether her licence was suspended. As far as we know she was free to get in her car, or other vehicle, and drive herself home from court. Her only crime was getting caught.
What sort of message does this send out about New Zealand’s tolerance for drink driving and what does it say about the close association between sport and alcohol?
Presumably this ‘high level Kiwi sportswoman’ is now free to travel abroad and drive there too, one can only hope that she’ll stay off the booze if she gets behind the wheel of a car anywhere in the world. The Gisborne Police must wonder why they bother doing their job.
Coming soon after a young Kiwi driver was involved in a cover-up after a Kenyan bus crash in which three people died, we have to ask the following questions
Wasn’t the Canadian government right to refuse entry to a convicted drink driver?
Don’t other countries have the right to protect themselves from Kiwi drivers?
and is the NZ government complicit in condoning drink driving when its courts make the decision that Gisborne’s has. Isn’t that akin to subverting the course of justice – if not the letter of the law then surely the spirit of it?
NZ public have their say
The Kiwi public were understandably incensed about this case and the message it sent out, with one person saying
“People get off these charges all the time. The message is loud and clear – drink driving is apparently just not that big a deal in New Zealand.”
“Yet again preferential treatment for some irresponsible sportsperson. Yep they’re heros alright.“
Update 4 February 2013 Police may challenge drink drive decision
Police issued a statement today saying they were
“seeking advice from the Crown Law Office on whether an appeal would be lodged. They said the woman was not well known nationally and did not play a mainstream sport.” more here
We would like to ask if this young sportswoman was young enough to be in the age group that is legally not allowed to drive with any level of alcohol in their system, and whether her sport is vehicle based – for instance BMX ? that may explain the reason why a drink driving conviction would’ve been so very bad for her international career – especially if she could be a potential world champion representing New Zealand in her sporting field.
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