When police arrived at the scene of an overturned car off Palmerston North's Centennial Dr, they found the driver inside slurping from a can of beer.
Paul Sneddon was trapped, so having discovered he could not get out, he figured he might as well have another beer, his lawyer told a judge yesterday.
Asked by the police how much he had had to drink, the 47-year-old replied: "Plenty."
The former baker went on to elaborate that he had been drinking for four days as a result of losing his job.
Sergeant Ollie Outtrim said Sneddon was travelling along Centennial Dr in Palmerston North late at night on June 1 when he failed to take a corner and crashed through a wooden barrier. Police found him trapped in his overturned Ford Laser, drinking beer.
Defence lawyer Peter Young said that when Sneddon found he could not open the doors, he had nothing else to do, so he had another beer.
A breath test put Sneddon at nearly three times over the legal limit, prosecutor Sergeant Ollie Outrim told Judge Gregory Ross.
Mr Young told the judge his client accepted he was over the limit but did not necessarily agree with the reading.
Judge Ross said while he had some sympathy for Sneddon, it was a serious accident.
"And your reading of 1191 micrograms was the biggest I have seen this morning by some measure." The legal limit is 400.
He banned Sneddon from driving for 10 months and fined him a total of $1100 on the charges of driving with excess breath alcohol and careless driving, which he admitted.
"As far as the post-accident drinking is concerned, that is something you cannot be given credit for," Judge Ross said. "Otherwise everyone would drink after an accident and use that as an excuse to get away with it."
Speaking afterwards, Sneddon said he was relieved no-one had been hurt. He was in a "dark place" that night, having lost his job at the Winter Family Bakery four days earlier and heard about his father's prostate cancer on the same day.
"I'm separated from my wife, I've got no friends, no-one comes to visit me and that job was my whole life," he said. "So to remove that was to remove my purpose in life."
Sneddon said the news, coupled with the stress of not being able to afford rent on his one-bedroom flat, left him feeling "mentally unstable".
"I went for a drive to the supermarket and it was absolutely pouring down. It all happened so quick. Maybe I was speeding, maybe I blacked out for a second – I don't really know. I was lying there, trying to get the doors open but couldn't. I remember the inside light not working and thinking, `It's not like I'm going to read a book,' so I opened another can."
It was a stupid thing to do and he had only himself to blame, he said.
Losing his licence and car had hurt his chances of finding work and magnified his problems.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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