Flatmate disqualified in drink-driving deception

Martin John Phillips found a way to avoid disqualification for drink-driving - but he's serving a nine-month jail term instead.

By the time anyone found out that he had given his flatmate's name and details when he was picked up in October 2010, it was too late to charge him.

Instead, the police went after him for wilfully attempting to defeat the course of justice which carries much more serious penalties.

The 39-year-old unemployed Christchurch man admitted the charge and has now been sentenced in Christchurch District Court where Judge Gary MacAskill noted that his deception meant he had successfully evaded responsibility for the drink-driving.

Crown prosecutor Nicola Robson told the court the charge could not be amended to substitute Phillips' name for the flatmate but the record would be changed so the victim did not have it on his history.

Defence counsel John O'Connell said Phillips had been responsive to sentences imposed in the past and would be available to attend a medium intensity rehabilitation programme. He did not have an extensive list of dishonesty convictions.

But Judge MacAskill noted a comment from the former flatmate who said he had helped Phillips out several times. "And yet you seem to have felt no obligation to him at all."

They were flatmates for about seven months in 2010. Phillips gave the other man's details when he was stopped on October 9 that year, and had a level of 1018mcg of alcohol to a litre of breath. The legal limit is 400mcg.

Phillips went to court in the other man's place 12 days later, pleaded guilty and was fined a total of $1354 including costs, and disqualified for eight months.

The flatmate was a truck driver and was lucky not to be stopped as a disqualified driver in the months that followed, said the judge. He found out what had happened when he was refused finance for a new vehicle by a company which checked his history.

Phillips said he had panicked on the night he was stopped. O'Connell also told the judge about a later occasion when Phillips was also convicted of failing to give his details to the police He had given only his first name at first. O'Connell said it was more a case of him being "lippy" and having an attitude problem.

The judge noted a record that stretched over 20 years with eight convictions for dishonesty, eight for violence, four driving offences, and a breach of a protection order.

Phillips said he felt really bad about what happened to the flatmate and was glad there were no other consequences for him. But the judge noted that he had not done anything to put matters right until he was caught.

The offence had struck at the heart of the administration of justice, and the details of the wrongful conviction could continue to plague the victim for some time yet, said Judge MacAskill as he imposed the jail term.

The Press