Notorious drink-driver seeks rehab sentence

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 14:00 12/08/2014

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New Zealand's most notorious drink-driver is appealing a sentence he has already served to serve another sentence, one which he hopes will get him the help he needs.

Brian Mitchell Hart, 58, is serving his 33rd prison sentence in Rimutaka prison, but is due to be released this week.

He hopes to appeal his most recent of 20 drink-driving convictions so he can serve a community sentence at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Auckland or Wellington.

Hart's lawyer, John Dean, argued for Hart to be granted leave to appeal in the Court of Appeal in Auckland this afternoon.

Dean said the court should impose a community sentence for the conviction with specific orders to attend an alcohol rehabilitation programme so Hart could get the help he had not received during his time in prison.

Hart was a "chronic alcoholic" who suffered from alcoholic dementia, Dean said, adding that the Hawke's Bay man's condition was severe enough that he should probably be admitted to a dementia ward.

Hart was sentenced in February on one charge of refusing to give a blood specimen and a second charge of drink-driving - the second while he was on bail for the first - and was sent to prison for the 33rd time. He's been convicted of drink-driving 20 times and disqualified from driving every time, usually for 12 months. But when the disqualification period - much of which is spent in prison - is over, he gets his licence back.

Dean said non-specific orders to attend programmes and undergo counselling had been handed down to Hart previously, but he had ignored those orders.

Hart had spent more than half of his adult life in prison and had never received help for his alcohol problem, he said.

Crown lawyer Kylie Cooper said Hart had been offered rehabilitation programmes in prison, but had not participated.

Court of Appeal judges Justice Lynton Stevens, Justice Simon France and Justice Jillian Mallon said they were confused by Hart's desire to serve a second sentence for his conviction.

Justice Stevens said serving a community sentence when Hart had already done his time in prison would be in breach of the principle of double jeopardy.

Justice France said if Hart wanted to receive help for his alcohol problems he could do that during his period of parole. There was a section in the original sentence that said he would have to undergo treatment when released from prison.

Dean said only a new sentence imposed on Hart would make him get help as he "lacked insight" and would not seek treatment on his own.

The Court of Appeal judges said an affidavit from veteran alcohol and drug counsellor Roger Brooking was not admissible.

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The Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

- Stuff

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