Testing case for police

There is a time to applaud the letter of the law being followed, and there is a time to wonder if Mr Bumble was on the mark in Oliver Twist when he famously referred to the law being ''an ass''.

Certainly, some eyebrows must have been raised when the case of the accountant who avoided a drink-driving charge thanks to a technicality wrapped up at Queenstown District Court recently.

Paul Frederick Johnson got off the charge when a judge ruled police did not have the authority to enter his property.

Mr Johnson had been ''unsteady on his feet'' and smelled of alcohol, according to the police, who approached him after he had pulled into his own driveway.

The man refused a breath-screening test - as is his right - and refused to accompany police to the station to undergo a blood-screening test.

Judge John Brandts-Giesen said the officers could only have gone on to Mr Johnson's property to request the tests if they had ''express or implied licence'' to enter the property, or if they had engaged in a ''fresh pursuit'', having turned on their flashing lights and radioed in. As they apparently did neither, they did not have the authority to request the tests. Hence, the case was thrown out.

It goes without saying that the judge knows an awful lot more about the law than the average citizen.

But, in this instance, has justice been served? Has it been in the interests of wider society to have thrown out charges against a suspected drink-driver simply because of doubt over having the right to be on a driveway?

What message does it send regarding the ability of police to stay vigilant around such a key part of keeping our roads safe? Won't the next alleged drink-driver caught in a similar situation feel empowered to pull
into his or her driveway, if they are close, and refuse to be tested, safe in the knowledge there is precedent for the case
to be defended?

There are about 35,000 excess breath-alcohol driving charges laid each year in New Zealand.

Presumably, none is laid without a driver of a vehicle either testing positive or refusing to submit to blood testing - which does not prove guilt, obviously, but which could be said to be a fair indicator.

The drink-driving laws are relatively complex. Like many laws, within there are technicalities and loopholes.

Our justice system rightly demands guilt be proven ''beyond reasonable doubt''. But it also serves an ultimate purpose - that justice be served - and this is the sort of case that makes some wonder if that always happens.


This appears to be the end of a golden era of All Black rugby.

That is not a kneejerk reaction following the devastating 47-26 loss to the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday night. Rather, that result was symptomatic of the slow decline of what, admittedly, has been one of the great New Zealand sides.

All Black teams simply do not get beaten like that. They do not concede nearly 50 points, they do not get smashed in the physical exchanges, they do not stand by and watch as the opponent plays all the exciting and attacking rugby.

It has been a glorious run since 2008. A winning percentage nudging 90%. Two world titles. Near-impeccable succession planning and player development.

At this rate, sadly, that run will not be ending with a third straight Rugby World Cup crown.

At least, for the neutral, this creates a near-endless level of debate and angst heading into the tournament in Japan. But for diehard All Black fans, these are worrying times. It will take an almighty reversal in form at Eden Park this weekend to assuage those fears.


If a drunk driver manages to make it home without damaging property or people, the police should just let him/her sleep off the drunkardness , but keep a watch on the property if going past regularly in case they try going out again.