Judge praises drink-driver’s addiction efforts

The man appeared in the Oamaru District Court this week. Photo: ODT files
The man appeared in the Oamaru District Court this week. Photo: ODT files
A "remarkable" effort to turn his life around has saved a North Otago man jail time.

Damon Lindsay Ross (39), a dairy farm worker of Reidston, was convicted of drink-driving — having four previous convictions — and dangerous driving, following a car crash on November 3 last year.

He appeared in the Oamaru District Court this week.

The summary of facts stated Ross had been driving along Lune St, Oamaru, at 6.15pm.

He headed north towards Arun St, driving through a give-way without slowing. He then accelerated through a second give-way into Wansbeck St.

The victim was travelling west along Wansbeck St, having just exited the Till St ramp, when Ross crashed into the passenger side door.

The force of the impact flipped the victim’s vehicle on its side and the driver had to be cut from the vehicle.

The defendant’s vehicle rebounded off the other car and crashed through someone’s fence into their garden.

The victim was in hospital overnight for observation and had broken ribs, bruising and scratches.

Ross was also admitted to hospital, and a blood sample returned a reading of 147mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

Counsel Katherine Henry said although Ross had an extensive history in the courts, a lot of his offending was to do with drug and alcohol abuse.

He had made significant changes to his life, and had not been before the courts since 2017, she said.

He had fully given up opiates, had a full-time job as a dairy worker, which included accommodation, and was in a stable relationship.

The day of the offending was an "aberration", she said.

Ross had attended the funeral of his partner’s father, which had brought grief about the earlier loss of his brother back to the surface.

He understood he was "incredibly lucky" he and his victim were not both more seriously hurt.

The incident had given him insight into what he needed to do, so as not to appear before the courts again, and he had also arranged his own counselling, she said.

Her client had "a lot more to lose than he ever has before".

Judge Ian Mill said Ross’s offending on this occasion was serious, and he had a long list of previous convictions including 30 for driving offences and 22 for breaching community-based sentences.

He told the court the defendant had overcome a serious drug addiction and was very sorry for what had happened.

Ross was in a rural location with a full-time job and a glowing reference from his employer, the judge said.

"Overcoming addiction would have been no easy matter," he said.

"What you’ve done is remarkable. What you did on this day is not."

Ross was sentenced to five months’ community detention, with a curfew of 8pm to 4.30am, and ordered to pay $500 reparation for the fence and garden.

He was also disqualified from driving for 28 days with an interlock licence to follow.

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