Driver on phone, drugs avoids jail

A sleep-deprived Queenstown man with methamphetamine and cannabis in his blood who drove through a stop sign while talking on his phone, seriously injuring another driver, has narrowly avoided prison.

Patariki Paora Isaacs (34) had driven from the Bay of Islands to Wellington and crossed Cook Strait by ferry before setting out from Picton at 6am on August 4 last year.

He had slept and consumed cannabis there before driving south.

About 4.15pm Isaacs was travelling on Tiplady Rd near Geraldine when he went through a stop sign and collided with the car driven by Lisa Ferris at an estimated speed of 78kmh.

Her car became airborne and flipped, and she was knocked unconscious and trapped for about an hour before she was freed by emergency services and flown to Christchurch Hospital.

While Isaacs sustained a broken ankle, Ms Ferris sustained serious traumatic injuries, including head injuries.

However, when Isaacs appeared for sentencing in the Queenstown District Court on Monday the court heard his offending did not stop there.

On January 24, in breach of his bail conditions, he drank 10 beers with workmates and drove to McDonald’s.

He was stopped by police and recorded a breath-alcohol reading of 600mcg.

Judge David Saunders told the defendant it was "probably the stupidest decision you could have made'', and showed he had learned little from the previous year’s tragedy.

Isaacs admitted driving while his blood contained evidence of the use of a controlled drug (methamphetamine and cannabis), driving at a dangerous speed causing injury to Ms Ferris, and the drink-driving charge.

His lawyer, Bryony Shackell, said he was facing personal and financial consequences that included the ongoing effects of his own injury, a $17,000 loss incurred on his written-off car, and delays to gaining his building qualification.

Isaac’s father addressed the court, saying he felt partly responsible for the crash because he had made the phone call in question.

He and his family were ‘‘devastated" to hear an innocent person had been injured.

Judge Saunders told Isaacs that although his father had taken some responsibility, ‘‘you were the person who decided to take that call, did not decide to pull over".

Distracted drivers were dangerous drivers.

"It is just stupidity, and it's also criminal.''

From a starting point of two years’ and nine months’ prison, he added two months for the drink-driving charge.

After taking account of the defendant’s letter of apology, offer of reparation and guilty plea, he came to an end point of two years' prison, which he converted to a sentence of one year’s home detention.

He ordered the defendant pay Ms Ferris $6000 in reparation and $7500 reparation for emotional harm, of which $500 was payable immediately and the remainder to be paid at $100 a week.

He disqualified him from driving for two and a-half years.


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