An alcoholic Benhar man with what Judge Kevin Phillips
described as ''probably the worst record for recidivist
drink-driving'' he had seen in his eight years as a judge, has
been jailed for 37 months.
Gerald Peter Nelson (59) had already been to prison several
times for similar offending but those sentences had clearly
had little or no impact, the judge said in the Dunedin
District Court yesterday.
Nelson remained a danger to the community by continuing to
In the past 12 years he had been convicted five times for
high level drink-driving and recidivist disqualified driving.
One of the major reasons he was getting a punitive sentence
for the latest offences was to protect the community, the
judge told the defendant.
On his 18th drink-driving conviction, involving a 935mcg
breath-alcohol reading at Milton on November 16, Nelson was
sentenced to 19 months' jail. An associated charge of
disqualified driving - his 26th such conviction - earned him
an extra 18 months' jail time, giving him an effective
sentence of 37 months.
On each of the charges, he was also given concurrent two-year
When police stopped him in Union St, Milton, Nelson admitted
having had ''a couple of beers''.
But, at 935mcg, his breath alcohol level was more than twice
the legal limit. He was also found to be subject to two
indefinite driving bans which had been in force since 2004.
Counsel Noel Rayner told the court yesterday Nelson was
remorseful. He acknowledged he was an alcoholic and wanted to
make changes to his life. While in custody on remand, he had
completed an alcohol treatment programme and he was enrolling
Nelson knew his health would be threatened if he continued to
drink alcohol, Mr Rayner said.
Judge Phillips described the defendant's alcoholism as a
disease which had ''totally blighted'' his life. He
acknowledged Nelson understood he would die of alcohol
poisoning if he continued to drink. He was being sent to jail
as a deterrent and to denounce his behaviour but mainly
because he remained ''a huge risk'' to the community if he
continued to drive.
It was accepted the defendant was a recidivist and his
breath-alcohol level at the time of his arrest showed clearly
it was not a result of residual alcohol, Judge Phillips said.
Nelson had shown a total disregard for the law, his community
and its safety, court orders, his family, his partner and his
Since 1972, he had been to jail 20 times and the sentences
had not had any impact on his continued offending. His
comments to the police when arrested on the latest charges
were aimed at minimising his offending.
And while counsel had said Nelson was remorseful, Judge
Phillips said he did not accept that.
''If you were, you wouldn't continue to offend,'' he told the
While the maximum penalty for each charge was two years'
jail, Judge Phillips said higher courts had made it very
clear that, in such offending, courts were entitled to treat
each charge as separate.
Drink driving was concerned with road safety. So, too, was
disqualified driving but it also challenged the authority of
the court and had to be dealt with severely.
Cumulative sentences were appropriate, the judge told Nelson,
giving him a total prison term of three years and one month.