Wakatipu man drinks and drives after fight with pregnant girlfriend

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A Wakatipu man who drove drunk to get away from his pregnant girlfriend after a fight has escaped harsher penalties in court.

Landscape gardener Gareth David Marks, 31, has had his licence revoked until further notice by Judge Michael Turner in Queenstown District Court today.

Marks pleaded guilty to drink-driving with an excess breath alcohol reading of 675mcg after driving 100m on January 12 this year.

It is his third drink-driving conviction.

The court heard that Marks and his pregnant girlfriend had an argument that night – “There was some issue over whether the baby was the defendant’s or another person’s”, Marks’ lawyer Mike Newell says.

He became angry, erratic and was expressing thoughts of self-harm before leaving his Crown Terrace address in his car and parking it in a road layby 100m away.

The woman contacted a male friend expressing concern about Marks’ disappearance, and the friend drove up to the address, finding Marks parked on the road nearby. The man drove Marks back to the address, leaving the car parked there.

However, Marks got into another vehicle – also belonging to him – and drove it to the same spot. He reclined the chair and went to sleep.

Marks had argued to police – who arrived at the scene few hours later – that he had consumed spirits in the second car after he stopped driving, but police only found one beer bottle in the vehicle. They keys were still in the ignition.

The next day, Marks sought help from mental health services.

Judge Turner accepted that Marks had no intention of driving further that night and that he removed himself “from an emotionally-charged and distressful situation”.

Because it was his third drink-driving conviction, Marks faced a fine of up to $6000 or up to two years’ in jail, plus an indefinite disqualification from driving. But Judge Turner felt a fine of $800 plus court costs would be sufficient given the circumstances.

Instead of disqualifying him indefinitely, Judge Turner ordered that Marks gets his licence back when “the Land Transport Authority director is satisfied you are safe to be back on the road”.