11 convictions see drink driver jailed

A drink driver with nine previous convictions was yesterday sentenced in the Oamaru District Court to 15 months' jail after being caught twice in three days with blood-alcohol levels almost four times the legal limit.

Warwick Bruce Couchman (60), beneficiary, of Hampden, was also driving while disqualified for the eighth and ninth time on November 20 and 22.

On November 20, Couchman committed his 10th drink-driving offence, with a blood-alcohol level of 1550mcg, and his 11th was on November 22, with 1530mcg. He had been driving in Hampden to get more alcohol.

Judge Joanna Maze described Couchman as an ''appalling'' and ''chronic'' alcoholic, his life ''blighted'' by the disease.

He was a recidivist drink driver and disqualified driver, his last offence being in 2008, she said. Each time, he had high blood-alcohol readings, police records showing many previous convictions more than 1000mcg.

In addition to the jail sentence, Couchman was disqualified from driving indefinitely, with a minimum period of one year and one day. Once his disqualification ended, he was authorised to apply for a zero-alcohol driver's licence for three years.

The Nissan car he was driving was confiscated.

Judge Maze declined leave for Couchman to apply for home detention in place of the jail term, because she did not think he could control his disease and believed he would again put the community at risk.

The police summary said that, after the first offence, Couchman said he could not be bothered walking 250m to the shop to buy a cask of wine.

Couchman was warned not to drive and advised of the consequences if caught.

After the second offence, when told by police he was driving while disqualified again, Couchman told police ''you got me''.

On that occasion, Couchman said he thought the local police constable was on a day off.