Mix-up delays drive charge

Last updated 14:31 04/12/2012

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A Blenheim man has appeared in court two years late after a mix-up over drink-driving charges.

Damien Christopher Churches, 35, was caught driving with a blood alcohol level of 124mg (legal limit 80mg) in Christchurch on September 18, 2010, but appeared in Blenheim District Court only yesterday for offence.

Defence lawyer Kent Arnott said there had been a misunderstanding after Churches was also suspended from driving soon after being caught drink-driving. When a police officer served Churches with a notice suspending him from driving, he thought it was because of the drink-driving rather than for having excess demerit points.

"He asked the officer ‘do I have to go back to court' and the officer, who did not know about the drink-driving, said he didn't," Mr Arnott said.

Churches had not driven during the past two years but when he went to get his licence back was told there was a warrant for his arrest for failing to go to court.

The time he had spent off the road was effectively a self-disqualification, Mr Arnott said.

Churches told Judge Anne Gaskell he had missed out on jobs because he thought he could not drive.

Judge Gaskell sentenced Churches to 75 hours' community work, but decided not to disqualify him from driving because of the time he had already spent off the road. It was his second drink-driving conviction.

Also appearing on drink-driving charges yesterday:

Kingi Hamlin Kaukau, 30, a vineyard worker, of Picton, was sentenced after earlier admitting driving with a blood alcohol level of 195mg, his fourth drink-driving offence, and careless driving.

He was sentenced to three months' community detention, nine months' supervision to complete alcohol and drug counselling, and 120 hours' community work. He was also disqualified from driving for one year and one day and ordered to pay $1019.22 reparation.

Judge Gaskell said Kaukau was 2 times the legal limit when he failed to take a corner, crashing through a telephone installation and a hedge before hitting a fence about 1am on July 12.

Faye McLaren, 49, of Picton, was sentenced after earlier admitting driving with a breath alcohol level of 770mcg (legal limit 400mcg), her fourth drink-driving conviction.

McLaren was sentenced to three months' community detention, nine months' supervision and 120 hours' community work and disqualified from driving for one year and one day. She was also sentenced to hold a zero alcohol-limit licence for three years when she got her licence back.

Matthew Paul Trayling, 38, a marine engineer, of Picton, admitted driving with a breath alcohol level of 703mcg and was fined $600 and disqualified from driving for six months.

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Police prosecutor Sergeant Mark Harris said police stopped Trayling about 9.06pm on November 27 because his tail lights were not working. He admitted drinking and told police he had gone to buy cigarettes.

Defence lawyer Philip Watson said Trayling and his partner had decided to give up smoking, but his partner had been craving cigarettes and Trayling had decided to go to the dairy to get her a packet after having a few drinks.

Michal Weissgarber, 30, a vineyard worker, of Witherlea, admitted driving with blood alcohol level of 195mg and was fined $900 and disqualified from driving for six months.

Mr Harris said Weissgarber was driving in Port Underwood Rd on November 9 when he pulled too far to the side and the vehicle slid 3 metres down the hill.

Jannette Elizabeth Riddell, 50, a psychiatric nurse, of Blenheim, admitted a charge of refusing to give a blood sample to police and was fined $850 and disqualified from driving for eight months.

Mr Harris said police were called about 10.20pm on November 26 with a report that Riddell was trespassing at her ex-partner's home. When they arrived, Riddell had started her car to drive away. Police tried to test her for drink-driving but she refused to give a breath or blood sample and told police she got distressed when blood was taken.

- The Marlborough Express

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