Officer resigns over drink drive charge

IN THE DOCK: Joanne Managh appears in the Nelson District Court pleading guilty charges to drink driving and failing to stop.
IN THE DOCK: Joanne Managh appears in the Nelson District Court pleading guilty charges to drink driving and failing to stop.

A long-serving Nelson police sergeant hit a parked car while drink-driving, narrowly missing a man, before fleeing the scene.

Joanne Helen Managh, 50, has resigned from her 16-year police career because of the April incident.

In the Nelson District Court today, Managh admitted driving carelessly, failing to stop after a non-injury accident and driving with excess blood alcohol. She was convicted and fined a total of $2053, and disqualified from driving for 10 months

In a statement outside court, Tasman district commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said he was very disappointed by Managh's actions.

"Police officers are entrusted with upholding the laws of this country and are rightly subject to a higher level of scrutiny than other members of the community when they make poor decisions.

"This incident demonstrates that we will not hesitate to hold our staff to account under the law just like any other member of the public."

Christchurch-based police prosecutor Stephen Burdes told the court Managh was driving along Waimea Rd in Nelson talking on the phone on April 4 at 6pm.

A Mitsubishi vehicle had broken down on the side of the road. While waiting for a tow truck, the driver opened the rear passenger door to get something in the back seat when Managh's vehicle went past and clipped the door. The impact of the collision crumpled the door causing moderate damage.

Managh continued to travel south on Waimea Rd.

She told police she did not stop because she thought the damage was minor and she wanted to get home.

Police later went to Managh's address and completed a breath alcohol test after they detected the smell of alcohol.

A later blood test found she had 146 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 80mg.

Defence counsel Garry Barkle said Managh took full responsibility for her actions.

Clearly she should have stopped after the collision and Managh accepted this aggravated the situation, he said.

Her father, who she was very close to, died in December last year. She had not dealt sufficiently with the death of her father and suffered severe depression.

The combination of her father's death and having to deal with sudden deaths and suicides as part of her job as a police officer meant that she was in a vulnerable state, Barkle said.

While it was a matter of conjecture, the blood alcohol reading incorrectly included alcohol that was consumed once Managh arrived home.

Once police arrived at her property she was co-operative. She also co-operated with subsequent inquiries, apologised to the victim and paid for the damage to his vehicle.

She showed genuine remorse and had an otherwise "unblemished" reputation, backed by 15 character references saying that she was highly regarded in the community.

As of last Friday, Managh resigned from the police force, which she had worked for over 16 years.

"Her career was set until retirement. This incident has unfortunately and suddenly brought it to a conclusion," Barkle said.

Judge Richard Russell said he accepted Managh was apologetic and had done everything possible to make things right.

Managh had an unblemished record in what was often a very difficult job.

But he said: "I think you are very fortunate indeed that the owner of the car was not injured in any way as a result of your driving.

"The cost of conviction for you is much greater than what it would be for most.

"You've lost a promising career and your income associated from that and you will have to face all the associated publicity."

The judge said the law was such that he had to assume the level of alcohol recorded in her system was the level during the time of the collision.

The judge said Managh had to focus on re-establishing her life, and from the material he had seen he had some confidence she would achieve that.

When Managh first appeared in court in early May her name and occupation were suppressed on medical grounds.

The Nelson Mail