Police are taking legal advice over whether to appeal against
a judge's decision to grant a discharge without conviction to
a sportswoman on drink-driving charges and suppress her name.
In Gisborne District Court last week, Judge Graham Hubble
discharged the woman without conviction and granted her
permanent name suppression after she appeared on a charge of
driving while almost twice the legal alcohol limit.
Police said in a statement today that they are seeking advice
from Crown Law on whether an appeal against the decision
would be lodged.
They said the sportswoman was not well known nationally and
did not play a mainstream sport.
She was caught driving with a breath-alcohol level of 801
micrograms per litre of breath - double the legal limit of
Her lawyer Marcia Insley told the court her client, who had
no previous convictions, had reached an "exceptional level"
in her sport, and had been offered a chance to compete
overseas. A conviction would affect her ability to do that.
Judge Hubble said Ms Insley's submission was "persuasive"and
he agreed to the discharge.
He said he was mindful of occasions when New Zealand
representative rugby players had been refused entry to Canada
because of similar convictions.
Queen's Counsel Nigel Hampton today blasted the decision,
saying it "condones" the woman's criminal behaviour.
Mr Hampton said the ruling sent the wrong message about
drink-driving and its consequences.
Mr Hampton said he was "very surprised"when he heard about
"I would say it's quite exceptional for a discharge without
conviction to be granted in these circumstances," he said.
Asked if he thought the woman had received special treatment
because of her sporting status, Mr Hampton replied: "It
sounds a little like it, and one wonders whether that should
be the case.
"You think of various high-profile people who have been
charged with drink-driving - from actors like Robyn Malcolm
to lawyers like Colin Carruthers - and they don't ask for
suppression of name and they don't see it as a hindrance for
them going overseas, because I am sure it's not."
Malcolm and Carruthers, also a QC, both pleaded guilty to
drink-driving charges last year and were fined and
disqualified for six months.
Mr Hampton said he could not understand why the discharge or
name suppression were granted.
"In New Zealand, sports people are exemplars for the rest of
the community and young people hold them in a high regard. If
they, like all of us, have flaws, shouldn't the young people
who hold them up as examples know about their flaws and be
aware of them? It's not a good message to send, quite
"I think the police would be justified in feeling somewhat
upset about this ... Here's this person doing it and the
court in effect condoning it. I think that sends the wrong
Students Against Drink Driving chief Anna Braidwood was
disappointed by Judge Hubble's decision.
"We hope that it does not inadvertently send the wrong
message out to our young people - that in some circumstances,
or for some people, drink-driving can be excused.
"When someone chooses to drive drunk they not only endanger
themselves but they endanger the lives of other, innocent
road users ...
"We struggle to believe that there have been no consequences
for the person involved in this case, regardless of who they
are or what they do."
The Sensible Sentencing Trust also criticised the judge's
"What's next?" said spokeswoman Ruth Money. "Automatic
suppression for everyone who chooses to break the law? Crime
is a choice; commit it and be named. That is open justice."