A judge has told a 42-year-old Nelson man with 41 previous driving convictions that it was only a matter of time before he injured or killed somebody.
Norman Mostyn Teece appeared in Nelson District Court for sentencing yesterday by Judge Tony Zohrab on a charge of dangerous driving causing death, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
The charge related to a fatal accident at the Golden Hills Rd intersection with the Upper Moutere Highway in Appleby last May.
Teece was the driver of a Mercedes which failed to give way to a truck and trailer unit at the intersection.
Foxhill man Richard Nicholas John MacKay, 39, the passenger in the car, was seriously injured and died later in Nelson Hospital.
Teece suffered serious head injuries and was flown to Wellington Hospital in a critical condition.
When interviewed by police in October, he had no memory of the crash, or of the preceding two years.
Defence lawyer Mark Dollimore had asked for the judgment to be adjourned so a report into the suitability of a home detention sentence could be completed.
He said Teece had been suffering neurological problems since the crash, had difficulty making decisions and would often lapse into violent and aggressive behaviour.
Since Teece arrived back in Nelson, he had reconnected with an "old crowd" that could serve as a negative influence on him, Mr Dollimore said.
His family were also concerned that his rehabilitation might be affected by a jail sentence.
Mr Dollimore asked Judge Zohrab to take a humanitarian approach to sentencing.
Crown prosecutor Sophie O'Donoghue said the Crown did not believe a prison sentence would be disproportionately severe.
Judge Zohrab said a law change last year meant the maximum sentence he could impose had doubled from five to 10 years.
"It's hard not to be sympathetic to the situation you find yourself in, but the sympathy is dulled or tempered because of your history."
Teece had received 41 previous driving convictions in the period between 1986 and 2001, and since 2001 had had his driving licence suspended twice.
"You have a terrible prior history. You have placed members of the public in danger again and again." Judge Zohrab said.
He said he was pleased that there had been no injury to members of the public, like the truck driver, but he imagined that Teece lived with that experience every day.
"You have for a long, long period of time been waiting to injure or kill somebody, and how you have not done it before now I don't know."
In addition to the jail sentence, Judge Zohrab disqualified Teece from driving for five years.
He said Teece had shown a selfish disregard for the rights of the public who had the "misfortune" to share the road with him.
In 2001, Teece was sentenced to nine months' jail on nine charges in Upper Hutt District Court, including three of driving while disqualified. His lawyer at the time said Teece was a "compulsive driver" and had owned 550 cars and motorcycles.
- The Nelson Mail