Bullying risk means drink-driver’s identity kept secret

A Queenstown woman almost seven times over the legal alcohol limit while driving in May will keep her name secret after a Queenstown District Court judge determined the risk of online bullying would likely result in "extreme hardship" to the defendant.

In court yesterday, Judge Alison McLeod said the woman, aged 31 at the time of her offending on May 21, was driving from Queenstown to Oamaru.

About 4pm, as the defendant passed the Cromwell racecourse on State Highway 6, a concerned motorist contacted police after observing her weaving within her lane, travelling at varying speeds and narrowly avoiding a head-on collision.

After police stopped the defendant’s vehicle, she failed a roadside breath test and, at the Cromwell Police Station, gave an evidential reading of 1728mcg. The legal limit is 250mcg.

She told police she was an alcoholic and had been at a party the night before, where she consumed up to 30 alcoholic beverages, mostly wine and tequila, continuing to drink until 4am.

Judge McLeod said the woman had no prior convictions.

Arguing for permanent name suppression, counsel Megan McCrostie said there was "no public interest" in the defendant’s name being published given the "unique context and circumstances" which led to her offending.

Ms McCrostie said she was remorseful and "absolutely devastated" and had resigned from her employment as a result.

She had not driven since her arrest and had struggled to find alternative employment without a licence.

Prosecuting Sergeant Ian Collin said prohibition of publication should be used sparingly and said the application for final name suppression focused on extreme hardship.

He contended feelings of "embarrassment and shame" naturally flowed from any convictions and were ordinary consequences.

However, Ms McCrostie said the consequences for her client were beyond what may be considered ordinary, and argued grounds for extreme hardship had been met.

On balance, Judge McLeod was persuaded to suppress the woman’s name, despite the public interest in drink-driving, particularly given the extremely high reading.

That was because of the likely impact publication of her name would have on her mental health.

The woman had a history of anxiety and depression and had struggled with alcohol abuse for a long time, Judge McLeod said.

While there was a "particular social view" about drink-driving, publication of her name could expose her to "negative comments on social media and [potentially] online bullying".

"If those things were to occur, they’re likely to have a direct negative impact on you," she said.

"I’m not satisfied there’s [any] public interest ... in knowing your name."

The woman was sentenced to nine months’ supervision, with special conditions, disqualified from driving for 28 days and ordered to apply for an alcohol interlock licence.


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