Truck nothing less than 'lethal weapon'

A truck driver who narrowly missed a police officer during a more than 50km police pursuit was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, a Dunedin court has been told.

Nathan James Wright (29) drove through roadworks, veered his truck at an officer and drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid road spikes during the pursuit, between Milburn and Lawrence in October last year.

His driving was ''unheard of'' and meant the logging truck he was driving was ''nothing less than a lethal weapon'', Judge Michael Crosbie said in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

''In my time on the bench, I've never come across a driver driving a truck in such a manner.''

Police became involved after receiving a complaint about Wright's driving from a member of the public near Milburn.

They attempted to pull him over, but Wright continued south towards Milton, before stopping at a truck stop to refuel after about 4km.

When questioned by police, Wright was unco-operative and provided the fake name ''John Smith'', a summary of facts said.

He then locked himself in the truck and threw his log book and driver's licence at an officer after it had been requested, before getting out to continue refuelling.

Police tried to stop Wright getting back in the truck by holding the door and warning him of obstruction, but he responded by telling them to get their hands off his truck.

Wright was then pepper-sprayed as he got back in the truck and drove off.

The pursuit continued on to State Highway 1, where Wright pushed into traffic through roadworks, then on to State Highway 8 towards Lawrence.

Wright reached speeds of 110km in the 90km zone.

Police were preparing to lay down road spikes as Wright approached Lawrence.

However, he veered the truck towards an officer, swerving away at the last minute, and the 37km pursuit was abandoned.

Police followed the truck at a distance along a forestry road for a further 13km.

The truck was then parked on the side of the road.

When police arrived, Wright ran at them and attacked one of the officers.

He was tasered by another officer and arrested.

Defence counsel Bill Wright said his client had under-gone personality changes and was apprehensive after the earthquake, having been in a building at the time.

He had also just broken up with his partner, Mr Wright said.

''His behaviour was irrational, bizarre and even quite insane, but it wasn't criminal.''

Wright was not aware of the flashing police lights or sirens because of his mental state, he said.

''When people are in the mental state he was in, I'm sure they're completely oblivious to the surroundings around them.''

Crown prosecutor Craig Power said Wright had a poor driving record and it was ''slightly concerning he is driving heavy traffic, despite his record''.

Mr Wright said Wright had been unemployed since the incident, but his employer was willing to take him back.

Judge Crosbie acknowledged the incident was a manifestation of a mental illness.

Wright pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to stop for police, one charge of giving false details and one charge of assaulting a police officer.

He was sentenced to three months' community detention and nine months' intensive supervision, and disqualified from driving for three months.

The curfew for the detention is 8pm-6am.

damian.george@odt.co.nz

 

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