Student sings his way out of drink-drive conviction

A teenaged drink-driver has avoided conviction after striking the right chord with a judge.

Rather than sitting in the dock listening to a lecture, student Alexander David James Grant (18) sat beside his lawyer in the Dunedin District Court yesterday while a song he had composed rang out.

The unconventional step came at the request of Judge Michael Turner, who took the defendant’s guilty plea last year.

Upon hearing Grant had musical talent, he suggested the teen write a score about his experiences.

The result exceeded his expectations.

The piece, called Choices, features acoustic guitar, piano and the lyric “make a choice to rise above it all”.

Grant told the judge he wrote it as a letter to his former self “trying to teach the ways of actually thinking”.

It took three days to write and four to record the song, Grant told the court.

Counsel Cate Andersen described her client’s song as “extraordinary”.

Police prosecutor Tim Hambleton voiced his approval of the musical response, too.

Grant, the court heard, had attended the Right Track programme — a course provided to show dangerous drivers the possible repercussions of their actions to stop them reoffending.

Judge Turner said the defendant had completed it with distinction and he hoped the song would be used as ‘‘a theme tune’’ for the programme.

Grant, a first-year student living in university halls of residence last year, had been drinking with friends on August 7.

His mates talked him into driving them to get food before he was stopped in George St.

An evidential breath test gave a result of 1077mcg, more than four times the legal limit.

While Judge Turner was struck by Grant’s music, he was not impressed by his conduct that night.

‘‘You made a very foolish decision ... You were a risk to yourself, others in the car and other road users,’’ he said.

However, the impact of a conviction on a young man, the judge said, would be harsh, given the lengths he had gone to to show his remorse and insight.

Grant was discharged without conviction.

Judge Turner said he could not remember the last time he had granted such an application for a drink-driver.

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz