Drink driver almost free of $200 a month interlock device caught again

Photo: File image / Supplied
Photo: File image / Supplied
A repeat drink driver one week off being freed of the expensive interlock device on his vehicle will now have it refitted for another year.

Self-employed building contractor Tony James McRobert had a “big night” at the pub before he planned to take a mate fishing the next day, and headed to the wharf not only drunk but in a vehicle without the device.

Interlock devices are wired into a vehicle to prevent it from starting if alcohol is detected on a driver’s breath. They are an option in sentencing first-time offenders with very high alcohol level readings and repeat drink drivers.

McRobert has been forking out about $200 monthly in lease fees for the device. The costs will now continue for another year, plus extra for installing a new device and removing the old one.

The 58-year-old, who admitted charges of driving drunk for a third or subsequent time plus driving contrary to an interlock licence, was convicted and sentenced in the Nelson District Court today to 175 hours of community work, nine months’ supervision and a replacement interlock licence.

He was found with a breath alcohol reading of 675 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath after he was stopped by police and breath tested on the morning of Sunday, April 28 this year, on the way to a fishing trip he had promised a mate.

McRobert was stopped a short distance from his home while driving his Isuzu truck on Wharf Rd, Motueka when the interlock device was fitted to his other vehicle.

Defence lawyer Jackie Van Schalkwyk said it was “unfortunate” that McRobert’s year-long interlock was about to end next week, when he had been compliant for almost a year.

“It’s now another expense for him and he knows it was a major error on his part.”

She said McRobert had had a “big night out at the pub”, went home between 3 and 4am and thought he was okay to drive to the wharf when he did, just hours later.

Judge Richard Russell said it was McRobert’s third drink drive offence, aggravated by the fact it occurred when he was still serving a sentence for the previous one.

“You took a different vehicle a short distance to the wharf, after a night out drinking. You should have known better,” Judge Russell said in sentencing him to start over with the interlock.

He also warned McRobert that if he chose to drive again after he’d been drinking, a harsher sentence was waiting.

“If you come back here again you’re nearing the country of a prison term.”

McRobert looked surprised when told it would now be four years, factoring in the three years he would be on a zero alcohol licence before he could touch alcohol again and then think of driving.

By Tracy Neal
Open Justice multimedia journalist