Driver with unrestrained children treated charitably by judge

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 15:38 20/08/2014

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A driver caught with five unrestrained children in her car has been treated compassionately by a judge who said such things were common 30 years ago.

Tracy Waihape, 39, appeared in the Napier District Court before Judge Jonathan Down today.

She pleaded guilty to failing to stop for police, failing to remain at a checkpoint, resisting arrest and driving without a licence.

The judge said Waihape was "dumb" to have driven away from police and to have resisted arrest, and he was sure she would do things differently if she was in the same position again.

But on driving with unrestrained children in her car, he said: "Thirty years ago, that was something a large number of families would do." 

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Waihape was caught in Wairoa on August 5 when her Subaru station wagon came to a constable's attention.

After pulling the car over, police found two teenagers wearing seatbelts but two toddlers in non-complying child restraints.

When the constable stepped behind the car to let waiting trucks pass, he saw Waihape wind the window up. She then drove away, leading police on a 2-kilometre pursuit through the streets of Wairoa, reaching speeds of 65kmh.

Police arrested her after the pursuit. They then found three children hiding under a cargo cover in the boot. The children were aged 4, 5 and 10.

Waihape was issued with five $150 infringement notices for having five children unrestrained and fined $300 for driving a car without a warrant or registration.

Waihape's lawyer, Philip Jensen, opposed media applications to photograph Waihape in court.

He said Waihape had several children and there were "emotional considerations of children to consider".

"They are embarrassed in school ... do they need the photograph in the newspaper?" he said.

Judge Down said the offences other than resisting arrest were minor traffic offences and he did not believe there was any public interest in having her image printed. He suppressed the use of any image.

Jensen said Waihape's offending was because of "a matter of panic".

The family were in an emotionally vulnerable state because they were returning from Gisborne, where they had attended the tangi of the children's uncle.

When an officer told Waihape that her car would be impounded, she thought she and the children would be left on the side of the road, Jensen said.

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He said Waihape only "drove around the corner" after being stopped by police and "the impression of some big police chase with kids in the car is somewhat of an exaggeration".

Waihape had a list of previous convictions, he said, but the latest offences were not serious and a fine would affect the children.

Judge Down said entering convictions for the driving offences was sufficient punishment, but for resisting arrest she was convicted and sentenced to 80 hours' community work.

- Stuff

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