Pastor escapes driving penalty

Last updated 05:00 13/07/2012

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A Hamilton man has found the Lord works in mysterious ways after he was discharged without conviction for an incident in which he nearly ran over two parishioners.

Pastor Seongho Park – a leader of the Hamilton Global Mission Church – reversed out of the Hamilton Central Baptist Church car park in December but did not notice the two elderly pedestrians behind him.

Judge Rosemary Riddell said Park "just brushed" the walking frame of one of them, but it was enough to cause one to topple on to the other, who fell over on her elbow: the "domino effect", the judge called it.

The fall left the woman with a broken arm and meant the pastor was charged with careless driving causing injury without even touching the victim.

After 12 days in hospital the woman was transferred to a facility for the elderly where the bad luck continued.

She picked up an infection in the wound, requiring more treatment.

The woman voiced her displeasure at the longstanding effects of the accident in a victim impact statement, which put particular emphasis on the way the injury had hampered her knitting.

Park, 47, who moved to New Zealand from South Korea five years ago, was determined to atone for his error and visited the woman twice in hospital, taking her flowers on each occasion.

A restorative justice conference allowed further steps to be made and even led to the victim writing a letter to the judge saying she did not want the pastor to end up with a conviction.

Defence counsel Soraya Barker said his level of culpability was at the lower end of the scale and a conviction against his name might cause parishioners to lose faith in his ability to lead them.

Judge Riddell agreed and discharged him.

Police urged her to impose a mandatory six-month disqualification from driving to impose some accountability for the error of judgement.

But Mrs Barker said Park's parishioners were spread around the region and he was often called out to visit them at short notice.

The judge thought it unlikely he would reoffend and was sure he would drive more carefully in future.

"You don't need to be held accountable any more than you already have," she said.

Park told the Times he was thankful to God as well the judge, and felt fortunate the law in New Zealand had "a warm-hearted aspect".

robert.kidd@waikatotimes.co.nz

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