Drink-driving ‘is a scourge’ – judge

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A 30-year-old engineer has been ordered to pay more than $6000 to the owners of three vehicles he hit while drink-driving in Lake Hayes Estate in April.

Robert Duncan Whitelaw, 30, of Lake Hayes, was also sentenced to supervision and community work for two separate dangerous driving charges.

Prosecuting sergeant Ian Collin, at Queenstown District Court on Monday, said Whitelaw was driving a Nissan vehicle at about 65kmh through the suburban estate on April 21, having been drinking.

At some point he looked at his cellphone, then veered to the left and hit three parked cars.

Alerted by the noise, several residents rushed outside and found Whitelaw “sitting on the ground”.

He was urged to remain at the scene, but instead got up and walked about 200m to his home. Police carried out a breath test, which gave a reading of 851mcg.

Judge Mark Callaghan said Whitelaw was “remorseful and apologetic”.

At the time he was on medication and had now learned about mixing alcohol with that medication.

One of the vehicles had been written off and the owner had no means of purchasing another. Two others had insurance but also sought reparation.

Callaghan said a pre-sentence report recommended supervision, but he felt that was “not a sufficient penalty”.

“You need to put something back into the community for your wanton disregard for driving contrary to what the law permits.”

Whitelaw also forced other motorists to take evasive action when he overtook a bus on double yellow lines while riding a motorbike on State Highway 6 towards Gibbston, in a 100kmh zone, on March 20.

On each charge he was sentenced to 12 months’ supervision with special conditions, 80 hours’ community work, and was banned from driving for 10 months, all to be served concurrently.

He was also ordered to pay three sums of reparation, totalling $6295, at $100 per week.

Other drink-drive convictions

– Jessa Jean McLeod, 26, retailer, of Fernhill, was fined $950 after driving with a breath alcohol level of 831mcg at Lake Esplanade on January 20.

Callaghan said her level was twice the criminal limit of 400mcg, and three-and-a-half times the legal limit of 250mcg.

However, a letter she had written to the court showed she was remorseful for the position she found herself in and he felt it was “highly unlikely” she would reoffend.

“Nonetheless, drink-driving in this region of the country is a scourge,” he said.

“People think they can drink and drive here as of right.

“There have been numerous campaigns by the media and judges have tried to do everything they can to get the message home that you can’t drink and drive.”

McLeod was also banned for six months.

– Jack Richard Morgan, 27, carpenter, of Queenstown, paid the price for being a “good samaritan” and was fined $750 for drink-driving on Frankton Road on May 3.

Collin said Morgan was stopped at 1am and a breath test gave a result of 600mcg.

He told police he was “driving a friend home” – that person was in the passenger seat at the time.

Callaghan said Morgan should not have been anywhere near the wheel of a vehicle. He was banned from driving for six months.

– Joeli Takuria-Mita, 20, builder, of Arrowtown was sentenced to 80 hours’ community work and banned for six months after admitting drink-driving in Gorge Rd on April 15. He was also banned for six months on a charge of careless driving. He lost control of an unregistered vehicle in Gorge Rd, hit a bank and rolled it. A blood sample in hospital gave a reading of 143mg – the legal limit is 50mg.

He stated he was “driving to get home from town” but was unable to elaborate further as he had no recollection of the incident.

Defence counsel Tanya Surrey said it was a “lapse in judgement” on the defendant’s behalf.

“He had decided to go into town to pick up a friend to help him out and now realises he shouldn’t have been driving.”