Jail term appealed by hit-run driver

A hit-and-run drink-driver who seriously injured a Queenstown woman is appealing his jail sentence.

Nicholas Edward Catlin was sentenced to two years and four months’ prison by Judge Bernadette Farnan in June after admitting charges of drink-driving causing injury and failing to stop to ascertain injury.

The 33-year-old British builder, who has two previous convictions for drink-driving in his home country, was three times the blood-alcohol limit when his car mounted the footpath on Queenstown’s Frankton Rd on March 3, nearly killing waitress Mutsuko Morisue.

He continued driving for 100 metres before running from the scene.

The appeal will be heard in the Invercargill High Court in early October.

Catlin’s lawyer, Liam Collins, told the Otago Daily Times he knew the appeal would not go down well with the public.

"When someone appeals, the public thinks they’ve got no remorse or it’s another slap in the face for the victim."

Ms Morisue said news of the appeal, which would be heard on her birthday, was "shocking" and she was still unsure what to make of it.

She had been back working part-time for a month, and her physical recovery had gone well. However, recovering from her head injury was taking longer, and she still suffered from anxiety. Mr Collins said Judge Farnan’s sentence had precluded an opportunity for Ms Morisue to receive significantly more reparation.

Although Catlin was ordered to pay $2500 reparation immediately and $5000 more when it was available, there was no prospect of the latter payment because he was not earning income in prison and had no assets. If the appeal was unsuccessful, Catlin would be likely to serve his full sentence and then be deported.

Were the appeal judge to decide a prison term of two years or less was appropriate, home detention could be considered.

He would propose a sentence of 12 months’ home detention, with strict conditions, made possible by Catlin’s employer’s offer of free accommodation at his workplace near Lake Hayes.

That would allow him to pay Ms Morisue half his weekly wages for a year, potentially amounting to more than $30,000.

Although Judge Farnan had given Catlin generous "credits" in calculating his sentence, he would argue the starting point of more than four years had been too high.

The test would be whether the term of imprisonment was "manifestly excessive", given all the circumstances of the case, he said.

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