Found guilty on driving charge

A Queenstown woman has been found guilty of driving while under the influence of drink to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of her vehicle, following a judge-alone trial, before Judge Michael Turner, in the Queenstown District Court.

Susan Margaret Sanford (42), manager, of Arthurs Point, denied the charge, which stemmed from an incident in Queenstown on November 17.

Judge Turner's decision, issued on May 13, said Sanford left her parents' home in Park St about 7.15pm on November 17 and after travelling about 350m she failed to negotiate a sweeping right-hand bend and hit a stationary Subaru indicating to turn left into a park, then struck two parked cars on the left side of the street.

When police arrived she said she had consumed ''two wines'' before driving, but offered no explanation for the collision.

A breath-screening test returned a positive result, but Sanford was taken to Lakes District Hospital for medical treatment after sustaining a contusion to her forehead.

Blood samples taken at the hospital were not analysed as they were ''not fit for analysis''.

''The ESR report [noted] that both specimen bottles had leaked, as the caps on them were loose,'' Judge Turner's reserved decision said.

Constable Hugh O'Reilly said in court when he arrived at the scene Sanford was standing beside her car and said, ''I think I am in trouble''.

He noted she was unsteady on her feet to the point she needed to lean on her car; her speech was slurred and she spoke slowly; and her eyes appeared slightly bloodshot.

Judge Turner said notes from Sanford's doctor at the hospital indicated the defendant had said she had got into the car that night after consuming ''too many wines'' and the doctor's opinion was Sanford appeared ''happily intoxicated'' and required review when sober.

''The primary diagnosis was one of 'alcohol intoxication'.''

A second doctor examined her at 1.45am describing Sanford as ''now sober''.

However, defence counsel Phil McDonald argued her presentation at the time was due to an existing head injury, sustained following a car crash in 2001 which left her with life-threatening injuries.

Judge Turner said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the consequences of Sanford's head injury were ''incidental'' in her presentation at the time of the crash and the cumulative force of the evidence established the charge.

He remanded Sanford on bail for sentencing on July 28, ordering presentence and reparation reports.


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