Former Parliament Speaker Sir Kerry Burke admits drink-driving

Sir Thomas Kerry Burke, right, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, leaves Christchurch District Court after ...
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Sir Thomas Kerry Burke, right, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, leaves Christchurch District Court after being convicted of drink-driving.

Former Speaker of the House Sir Kerry Burke has convicted of drink-driving in the Christchurch District Court.

Burke, 73, admitted driving with a breath-alcohol level of 517mcg of alcohol to a litre of breath.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Glenn Pascoe said Burke was found driving his Volkswagen in Christchurch at 4.54pm on November 14.

Alcohol levels above 250mcg draw an infringement notice, and levels above 400mcg mean prosecution at court.

Defence counsel Andy Ogilvie said it was Burke's first time before the court.

"He's had an exemplary public life as a former Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House," he said. "He is naturally very embarrassed and remorseful about the situation he finds himself in."

There had been nothing remarkable about the driving that had brought police attention.

Ogilvie said: "He had some pressures on him in his personal life which I don't want to traverse in open court given the interest the press is likely to show in this matter."

There was little prospect of Burke ever appearing before the court again, he said, suggesting that because of the previous life he had led, a modest fine and disqualification should be imposed.

Judge Alistair Garland said that since Parliament had reduced the drink-driving level, the level in this case was more than twice the legal limit. "One has to reassess just how much you can drink before you drive, given that Parliament has changed the rules."

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Because he was aged 73 and had never appeared before the court, he was entitled to have the court take his good record into account. "I accept it was an error of judgment. I accept it is unlikely you will ever do so again," said Judge Garland.

He imposed a $400 fine and six months' disqualification from driving – the minimum term.

Burke is a former Rangiora and West Coast MP who served as Speaker of the House from 1987 to 1990. He was also the chairman of Environment Canterbury from 2004 to 2009.

 - Stuff

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