Dunedin man's 72 Ford GT confiscated after 'sustained loss of traction'

A classic Ford has been confiscated by the courts after the driver pulled a wheelie in central Dunedin.
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A classic Ford has been confiscated by the courts after the driver pulled a wheelie in central Dunedin.

A Dunedin man lost his appeal and his 72 Ford GT.

Donald John McLean was convicted on a charge of sustained loss of traction in the Dunedin District Court last year, and later sentenced to 70 hours community work, and disqualified from driving for a year.

On September 18, Judge Michael Turner ordered the confiscation of his car, a 1972 Ford GT.

McLean, who could not be reached for comment, estimated the car to be valued between $40,000-$100,000, with $60,000 owed to a family trust for the vehicle.

McLean, who represented himself at the hearing, filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence, arguing a miscarriage of justice had occurred.

In a High Court decision released on Friday, that appeal against conviction and his sentence was dismissed and the confiscation order remained in place.

McLean said he momentarily lost control of the vehicle, and called into question a female witness who he alleged was facing charges before the court.

He also challenged the evidence of an off-duty police officer who was a "long way away" from the scene.

McLean said based on a previous court decision it needed to be proven that the sustained loss of traction was a conscious and deliberate act of the driver, rather than accidental.

He also argued he would suffer extreme hardship if the car was confiscated as he owed a significant sum of money on the car.

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Justice Geoffrey Venning said McLean had to satisfy the court that the district court judge erred in his assessment of the evidence and conclusion that he consciously allowed or caused the sustained loss of traction to such an extent a miscarriage of justice has occurred.

The decision noted a duty manager at the Law Courts Hotel heard a very loud engine, and saw the car stopped amongst traffic before taking off with the wheels spinning at a red light.

"S*** that was dangerous," the duty manager said.

Tyron Wall, an off duty police officer, described crossing the road and observing McLean's car accelerate heavily from the intersection. 

He described seeing the muscle car in the left-hand lane and its V8 engine revving very loudly before taking off "at a very fast speed".

 "The wheels were spinning, it was sort of drifting slightly to the right."

Asked how long he thought the wheels were spinning for, he replied "In my opinion long enough that it was I thought "wow, that's deliberate"".

McLean said he did not do a wheelie, a skid or a loss of traction on purpose.

He argued that the noise the witness heard was possibly a belt, noisy gear drives and noisy exhaust pipes. McLean said the car had a button clutch which made it very difficult to drive, and argued that if he did lose traction it was due to his vehicle's performance and was not intentional.

Justice Venning was satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, on the basis of the evidence that the vehicle lost traction and secondly, that McLean's actions were deliberate rather than accidental.

He noted McLean had a previous conviction for dangerous driving causing injury in 2012.

And in the absence of extreme hardship to McLean, or undue hardship to any other person, the Judge was required to order the confiscation of McLean's motor vehicle. 

McLean opposed confiscation on the basis the vehicle was owned by him and his wife, and the car was used by her to transport children to and from various events.

However he later conceded his wife, who was separated from him, had another car in her own name.

 - Stuff

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