Vicar's 'relapse' costly

Timothy Hurd.
Timothy Hurd.
A drink-driving vicar was so drunk he mounted a kerb and blew out one of his car's tyres while driving to church, a court has heard.

The Rev Timothy Hurd (44) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to driving with a breath-alcohol reading of 892mcg - more than three times the legal limit.

The Anglican church official, who spent several years at St Luke's in Oamaru, later told the Otago Daily Times he had stood aside from religious duties ''for the foreseeable future''.

Hurd said he had come back to Dunedin specifically to focus on his alcoholism and depression but suffered a ''sudden and dramatic relapse''.

His driving was so bad on the morning of April 9 - a Sunday - that a concerned member of the public followed him from Elgin Rd, near his home on the west side of Dunedin, to the centre of town.

A police summary said Hurd crossed the centreline on numerous occasions, drove at erratic speed and continually mounted the kerb during the 4km journey.

Eventually his wayward driving resulted in his car's front left tyre deflating. Police found him in Cumberland St.

Hurd admitted to officers he had been drinking the previous night but believed he was fit to drive.

He told police he was heading to church.

The vicar confirmed to the ODT he had been worshipping at a North Dunedin church and was devastated by the episode.

''Obviously I'm greatly ashamed on behalf of the community and the church,'' Hurd said.

He said he had apologised publicly to the parish and the congregation had accepted it compassionately.

The defendant said he was also lucky to receive the backing of his superiors within the church, who had provided letters of support to the court on his behalf.

Hurd said the drinking session was a solo affair. He was reluctant to give more details.

''There are many reasons but no excuses,'' he said.

Judge Kevin Phillips acknowledged the positive references but said he had to treat the vicar the same as anyone else.

''None of that is an excuse for the crime you committed,'' he said.

The judge highlighted the high level of intoxication and the poor driving as particularly serious aggravating factors.

''You let your profession down,'' he told Hurd.

Judge Phillips banned him from driving for nine months and fined him $950.