Despite the rain that is causing floods and landslips throughout the entire length of the South Island, the wheels of justice must roll on. Monday being my weekly court round, I found myself in Judge Watson’s court today.
The courtroom was less busy than last week, and the prosecutor’s desk seemed to be getting cleared somewhat quicker. Court recessed for lunch earlier, and then ended the day earlier also.
Philippe Plot, 56, of Hororata, was before the court for the first time, and this perhaps helped temper what might have been a more severe sentence. He had been caught driving along Coaltrack Road in Coalgate on 12 April 2013, with a breath alcohol reading in excess of 400 micrograms. Mr Plot pled guilty through the duty solicitor. Judge Watson, referring to the actual test result of 1089 micrograms describing it as “a very high reading” and said Mr Plot was obviously “severely impaired” and that it was lucky the police stopped him before he went on to crash and injure or kill himself or someone else. Given that Mr Plot had no previous offending, Judge Watson fined him $800, with $132.89 court costs and disqualified him from driving for eight months. The duty solicitor said that Mr Plot was employed as a painter and would be applying for a limited licence in due course.
Kelly Gene Smith, 36, of West End in Palmerston North was conspicuous by his absence. He was represented in his absence by counsel Miss Millen acting on instructions from Miss Litt. Counsel did say that he could attend court at Palmerston North today if required. However, considering that there were a number of charges pending and there was still some confusion as to whether a trial by jury had been already selected as an option, Judge Watson insisted that he appear in the Christchurch court. He ordered that a warrant be issued for Mr Smith’s arrest, but directed that it lie in court un-actioned until noon on Monday 24 June. This would allow the defendant the opportunity to choose to appear in Christchurch on that day of his own volition, rather than be arrested and transported here by force.
The defendant with the most interesting job perhaps, was Kyle Trevor John Beazley, 26, a soldier based at Burnham Military Camp (just outside Christchurch). On 7 June he had been caught in Victoria Street, Central Christchurch, with a breath alcohol reading exceeding 400 micrograms. He pled guilty through his counsel, student lawyer Miss Hoffman, (who was under the watchful eye of a more senior lawyer). Miss Hoffman noted several mitigating factors, including that he had been detected only by a random stop and had not been driving in an obviously unsafe manner, and that he had pled guilty at the earliest opportunity. (I daresay that his reading of 486 micrograms alcohol per litre of breath was probably the lowest figure presented in court today). It was further explained that there was a 50/50 chance that he may lose his job as a result of a drink-driving conviction. Considering all the factors, Judge Watson fined Mr Beazley $400 with $132.89 court costs and a siz month licence disqualification starting from today, and made the comment that he thought that to cut short this young soldier’s career, would be excessive under the circumstances. Mr Beazley is most certainly hoping that his superiors in the military take into account the judge’s closing remarks.
Michelle Marcia Holden, 41, of Eyrewell Forest in Waimakiriri District, might also have to struggle to retain her job as a Security Officer. Found on Main North Road on 24 May with a breath alcohol reading of 494 micrograms. She would have been considered as a first offender, had she not appeared in court just last month on another alcohol impaired driving charge (stopped by police in March with a reading of 784 micrograms). However the judge went to pains to explain that the two matters, arising from offences that were committed close together in time, should have been dealt with on the same day, at her earlier court appearance. Carefully considering the situation, his Honour wanted to ensure that she was treated no worse than if the offences had been considered together. The matter was stood down for a period to enable updated court records to be searched. Re-commencing later in the day, the judge noted that she was in a “perilous financial position”. After considering all factors, Judge Watson sentenced her to 60 hours of Community Work, and as part of that, remitted her outstanding fines of $732. He ordered a three months disqualification from driving, which will commence on November 28 when her current disqualification period ends.
Christopher Gibson Haussrer of Upper Riccarton entered guilty pleas to an assault charge against Stuart Guy Nicholls and being found without reasonable excuse at a building in Clonburn Street on 31 May (that charge being substituted for a previous charge of burglary). Accepting the guilty pleas, the judge failed to enter a conviction at this stage and amended the current bail condition that he was not to associate with the complainant. He would be allowed to associate with the complainant but only for the purposes of a restorative justice process. He was remanded further to June 29 to allow for the restorative justice session to take place, and reminded Mr Haussrer that his bail conditions included a strict ‘no alcohol’ clause.
Sukhwinder Singh, 21, of Addington, pled guilty through his counsel to charges of driving with 654 micrograms of breath alcohol and driving while forbidden. On 22 March 2012, Mr Singh (who has an Indian driving licence) had been forbidden to drive until he obtained a New Zealand licence. On the breath alcohol charge, Judge Watson fined him $600, with $132.89 costs and gave a six month licence disqualification. On the driving while forbidden charge, he was convicted and discharged.
That was the highlights, among the more mundane warrants to arrest, for no-shows, were assorted other formalities, such as applications for limited driving licences. Four such licences were granted today, to applicants who needed to drive for their work. (If a person has had their licence suspended, because of driving under the influence of alcohol, they may apply for a limited licence. They are only granted under certain conditions).
Court finished for the day just before 4pm and I braved the wintry weather outside to return home.