Brief jail time for man after lawyer 'games system'

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 07/09/2012

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A drink-driver was briefly jailed by a judge who told him he was fed up with his lawyer "gaming the system" and wasting court time.

When Richard Grant appeared in Napier District Court yesterday, it was the 12th time his case had been called since he was charged with drink-driving a year ago. He was supposed to be represented by lawyer Brett Cooper, but Rotorua-based Mr Cooper had emailed police an hour earlier to say he could not make it.

This did not impress Judge Tony Adeane, who said the matter had dragged on for too long and "the timeline is quite unacceptable in the context of workload in Hawke's Bay".

Grant, 47, was pulled over by police in Napier on August 8 last year. He recorded a breath alcohol reading of 821 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, more than double the legal limit of 400mcg. He has eight previous convictions for drink-driving.

Judge Adeane said Grant had twice failed to appear and had once presented an inadequate medical certificate.

In March, Mr Cooper tried to withdraw from the case for unstated reasons but his application was refused. The next month Mr Cooper appeared in court and it was arranged to hold a hearing on August 2. He failed to appear on that date and sent a medical certificate stating he was unwell.

"Let me say that similar problems have afflicted cases of other clients of Mr Cooper in this court. The court is left with the distinct impression that the system's being gamed, technically for your benefit," said Judge Adeane.

"I have no way of establishing who is at fault, but the matter needs to be dealt with firmly."

He set a hearing date of October 1 and remanded Grant in custody until then.

While in the cells, Grant sacked Mr Cooper, became the client of Eric Forster, and changed his plea to guilty. When brought back before the judge, he was told a prison sentence was likely, given his previous convictions, and he was granted bail with strict conditions. He will be sentenced next month.

When contacted by The Dominion Post later in the day, Mr Cooper said: "I wasn't gaming the system at all and I will be making appropriate applications through other courts and institutions."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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