A carpenter caught driving while disqualified for the 21st time has escaped a jail sentence, but earned a verbal hammering from a judge.
"It is clear you have no sense of responsibility whatsoever for the rules that are supposed to keep the rest of us safe," Judge Geoffrey Ellis told Michael Wilson, a recidivist drink-driver, before ordering his car to be confiscated. "I cannot envisage a time when you should be allowed to drive."
Wilson, 39, from Upper Hutt, was stopped by police in Lower Hutt on St Patrick's Day after a member of the public complained about his driving.He pleaded guilty to drink-driving, after recording a breath-alcohol level of 898 micrograms – more than twice the legal limit. It was the eighth time Wilson had been caught drink-driving
EIGHT drink-driving convictions, and TWENTY-ONE convictions for driving while disqualified; you'd think that Wilson would be doing time for sure; but no; read on (our emphasis added):
In Lower Hutt District Court yesterday, Judge Ellis said: "One can hear the outcry that you should be locked up and the key thrown away, but I don't have that power."
A jail term would probably be overturned on appeal, he said.
He noted that, when Wilson was arrested, it was just a month since his last offence. "And yet there you were, all tanked up and driving."
Wilson was disqualified for a further two years on top of his current driving ban, meaning he will not be able to drive until at least 2014. He was also sentenced to five months' community detention.
Now, as we've said a few times before, we are mere bush lawyers. But even to our untrained legal eye, this seems to be a bizarre sentencing. Back in the 1970's we worked in the Court system, and we have vague memories of the maximum sentence for a second or subsequent offence of driving while disqualified being five years' imprisonment. It would appear that something has changed along the way.
Back in those days, court sentences meant something, and were enforceable. That seems to no longer be the case. And is it worrying that a District Court Judge is considering the likelihood of an appeal when he passes sentence? We would have thought it was the other way around; that the Judge imposed the sentence the he or she thought was justified for the offence, and worried about an appeal if and when it was lodged.
It seems to us that the law in this case is an ass. If someone is able to drive drunk and disqualified with such impunity, then clearly the sentencing options available to judges are inadequate. This offender clearly has no intention of mending his ways, and yet the sentencing judge clearly didn't think he was justified in jailing him. We're just glad that we don't visit Lower Hutt very often, and that our chances of a driving encounter with Michael Wilson are low.