'Gung ho' chase left victims terrified

The victim of a late-night ramming incident on an isolated gravel road says he feared for his life.

Logging contractor Michael James Hurring (51) appeared in the Dunedin District Court before Judge Kevin Phillips yesterday and pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving.

Judge Phillips described Hurring's offending as ''gung ho'' and high-level dangerous driving.

After his court appearance yesterday, the Balclutha businessman told the Otago Daily Times he was just trying to stop what he honestly believed to be people poaching on the property.

''I asked them to stop at the gate and they drove off and locked us in. Why would you do that if you haven't done anything wrong?''

However, his Invercargill victim told the ODT: ''It was an experience that hopefully we will never ever go through again.''

On the night of April 13, last year, he was driving his Toyota Hilux with two passengers after a hunting trip on a Clinton farm.

Hurring, who was hunting on the same property, noticed the Hilux on the property and assumed its three occupants were poachers.

Unbeknown to him, the men had been granted permission to hunt on the property. Hurring, with two passengers in his vehicle, followed the Hilux off the property and on to Cairn Rd.

He had his vehicle's headlights on full beam and a spotlight directed on the Hilux.

Hurring turned off his headlights and began to swerve across the road, then rammed the Hilux from behind, causing it to slide.

Hurring put his vehicle's headlights back on and continued to swerve behind the Hilux.

The Hilux turned into Slope Down Rd and Hurring again rammed it.

The Hilux slid and almost tipped, but the driver regained control and travelled south.

Judge Phillips said Hurring continued to follow the Hilux and rammed it again, then abandoned the pursuit.

''This was all done at speed, approximately 80kmh, and must have been most frightening and alarming for the occupants of the victim's car,'' the judge said.

The victim, who declined to be named, said Hurring ''rammed us so hard'', a black Labrador curled up on the back seat ''got fired over my head and ended between the window and the steering wheel''.

The Labrador's legs were caught up in the steering wheel as the vehicle - travelling at 80kmh on a gravel road - went sideways as the driver tried to flee the unknown assailant.

''We had a lot of luck on our side ... we were getting slung around that gravel road like we were a rag doll.''

He said the trio feared for their life during the ordeal.

''It was in no-man's land, no cellphone coverage.''

The men were left shaken after the ordeal. His vehicle had panel damage, buckled rims, minor chassis damage and a buckled tow-bar system.

In court yesterday, Judge Phillips told Hurring: ''You let yourself totally down, by not taking cognisance of the harm and danger you were creating by your manoeuvres.

''You jumped to conclusions, in which you were quite wrong.''

Crown counsel Robin Bates said the Hilux driver and passengers received minor injuries as a result of the vehicle being rammed.

Defence counsel Anne Stevens said Hurring had the ''mistaken belief'' the victims were poachers and wanted to stop them.

''He doesn't accept he had his lights on full beam, but he accepts he was trying to stop the car in front of him. He accepts the way he went about it was wrong,'' she said.

Mrs Stevens said Hurring was a well-established Clutha businessman and regularly contributed to the community.

The offending was out of character, she said.

Judge Phillips acknowledged Hurring was an ''extremely hard-working man'', instrumental in fundraising for the community and ''the largest employer in town''.

He said a character reference for Hurring was submitted by Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan, who said Hurring was a ''self-made'' man.

Judge Phillips said he understood why Hurring felt passionately about poachers and unauthorised people accessing forest properties, but his actions had to be denounced.

Hurring was convicted and sentenced to 100 hours' community work and disqualified from driving for eight months. He was also ordered to pay reparation of $4506 and emotional harm reparation of $3000 by 4pm tomorrow. After the sentencing, Hurring told the ODT, ''I am just going to roll over and take it''.

- Hurring is sole director of Balclutha companies Hurring Billcliff Logging, Mike Hurring Logging and Louies Cabs, established in 1993, 1997 and 2005 respectively.