Driving charges stick

JIMMY ELLINGHAM
Last updated 15:59 04/05/2012

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A former Rongotea farmer's attempt to get off a raft of driving charges has failed.

Karl George Burgess, 33, was defending charges of drink-driving, driving at a dangerous speed, failing to stop for police and failing to remain stopped, stemming from a August 2, 2009, police chase.

Defence lawyer Peter Coles didn't call any evidence during a hearing in the Palmerston North District Court, which finished this morning, saying it was up to police to prove Burgess was driving.

Judge Gregory Ross ruled that he was, and sentenced Burgess to 140 hours' community work and disqualified him from driving for 18 months.

Burgess is  serving a sentence of 10 months' home detention on a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice, after a jury found him guilty of trying to get farm worker Brendon Buchk to say he was the driver on the night in question.

Burgess unsuccessfully appealed that verdict and today he looked displeased with Judge Ross' decision, slamming a door on the court room dock as he left. 

Mr Coles said Burgess' life had not been easy since 2009. He had lost his farm and the expensive 2008 Ford Falcon, with the distinctive number plate "burga1''.

Before he started his home detention sentence, Burgess had been working as a heavy traffic driver transporting livestock.

On August 2, 2009, he was seen driving along Pioneer Highway about 8.45pm. One of two constables in a police car, Shane Ashford, said he saw Burgess driving.

Police followed him down Rongotea Rd and Number One Line, before the car pulled over.

But as Mr Ashford approached, the car sped away. Mr Ashford saw Burgess' reflection in the driver's wing mirror.

Police chased, but abandoned the pursuit as Burgess hit speeds of up to 180 kmh.

On Karere Rd the car crashed through a gate and into a field. Burgess tried to run off, but Mr Ashford caught up with him.

"[Burgess] said to him, words to the affect of: `This is unbelievable mate. I wasn't driving. Did you get the other guy'?'' Judge Ross said.

Constable Ashford had then said: "No other guy was driving, it was you.''

"There was no response from you,'' the judge said.

Burgess was found to have a breath-alcohol level of 975 micrograms. The legal limit is 400mcg.

After the event, he had tried to get Mr Buchk to say he was driving and had run away from police.

"My view of Mr Buchk was that he was, it seemed, stupid enough to agree to take the rap in the first place, but clever enough to have absorbed the details of the scam in a drive-over of the route,'' Judge Ross said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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