A Queenstown pilot was sentenced to 150 hours' community work
and disqualified from driving for one year by Judge John
Macdonald in the Queenstown District Court yesterday when he
appeared for sentence on one charge of drink-driving causing
Ronald Grant Stewart (51) denied being the driver of a
vehicle involved in a collision on the Lower Shotover Bridge
on October 21 when asked by police at the time.
About an hour later, Stewart, while still at the scene,
A subsequent blood test gave a reading of 137mg. The legal
limit is 80mg.
Defence counsel Phena Byrne said a court-ordered drug and
alcohol assessment and a separate assessment, carried out by
the Civil Aviation Authority, both determined Stewart had no
ongoing issues with alcohol.
Ms Byrne submitted the level of carelessness was of a
''relatively low'' level. Stewart had been ''momentarily
distracted'' when the passenger in his vehicle, having a
conversation on a cellphone with a mutual friend in
Australia, put the call on to speaker and held it out for
Stewart to say hello.
''He was momentarily distracted ... and turned [his head] to
''When he turned back to look at the road, there was traffic
in front of him that was moving ... 90kmh ... he'd simply
nowhere to go and rear-ended the vehicle in front of him.
''Alcohol obviously affected his perception of distance and
''It's a case of momentary inattention.''
Ms Byrne said the level of alcohol in his body was in the
''high range of moderate'' and had been caused by consuming
three ''self pours'' of wine, likely equivalent to about five
The victim received minor injuries, described as a ''neck
sprain'', requiring four physiotherapy treatments.
As of December 9 the victim reported ''everything is good
now'', she said.
However, the victim's vehicle was extensively damaged.
Ms Byrne said aggravating factors were the harm to the victim
and previous convictions for drink-driving and careless
driving causing injury. Both of those convictions were
historical, in 1984 and 1990, respectively.
''He is clearly remorseful ... he initially apologised to the
person in the vehicle that night in the hospital.
''He works as a fixed-wing pilot [and] he has a certain
amount of responsibility as a pilot with the company he works
''Civil Aviation Authority have done their own investigation
- it's had some far-reaching consequences already.
''He would certainly be unable to continue as a pilot if he
was sentenced to home detention.''
Ms Byrne said a community detention sentence would also put
his employment in jeopardy.
''CAA have rules which would mean he [would not be able to]
fly even if he was wearing an ankle bracelet.''
Stewart had made a ''grave error of judgement'' and was
willing to make amends.
Judge Macdonald said in the circumstances he was prepared to
accept the incident occurred as a result of momentary
inattention and was obliged to impose the least restrictive
Stewart was also ordered to pay $5000 emotional harm
reparation to the victim and $93 to cover analyst fees and
$73.47 for medical expenses.