Drink-drive lawyer's bid to walk free

By Edward Gay

The case was transferred to the Waitakere District Court. Photo / NZ Herald
The case was transferred to the Waitakere District Court. Photo / NZ Herald

A lawyer facing a drink-driving charge has been able to keep her identity secret - and is fighting to keep her record clean.

The woman, who has interim name suppression, is seeking a discharge without conviction.

The Herald understands she is seeking a discharge because of her career aspirations.

Yesterday, she stood in the dock at the Waitakere District Court as Judge Lisa Tremewan granted a continuation of the suppression order.

And she will have her case heard by the Chief District Court Judge. It is not known why the case is going before the chief judge.

Judge Tremewan acknowledged opposition to the suppression order by the Herald but said it had to stay in effect while the woman's bid to be discharged without conviction was on the table.

"In my view they need to be dealt with in tandem," she said.

The lawyer was charged with drink-driving after police found she allegedly had 128mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in her system - more than one and a half times the legal limit of 80mg.

At least three other drink-drivers were sentenced in the Waitakere District Court yesterday.

Allan Lawrence Bell, Phillip Harold Ivory and Stephen Leonard Ward were all convicted of driving with excess breath alcohol.

None of them was granted name suppression, although none had applied for it.

The lawyer's case was originally heard in the Auckland District Court but was transferred to Waitakere where Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson was to hear it yesterday.

But Judge Johnson was called to Christchurch to help organise temporary court space in the aftermath of last month's earthquake.

Judge Tremewan remanded the matter until next month, when Judge Johnson will next be available.

She said she would make a note on the file that yesterday's deferral would be the last time the case was adjourned, "barring emergencies".

The woman's lawyer, Harry Waalkens, QC, said he would prefer the judge not make the note.

He said the adjournments had not been caused by the defence.

But Judge Tremewan said the case had been adjourned on 10 occasions, and she would add the note to the file.

"I'm sure you're keen to have the matter disposed of?" she asked the woman.

The defendant replied: "Yes."

Outside court, Mr Waalkens was asked why the matter was to be heard before the Chief District Court Judge.

He said he was new to the case and he could not comment.

Her other lawyer, Steve Cullen, also said he could not comment.

The woman also appeared in court on Tuesday last week before being granted name suppression.

When phoned by the media, she declined to comment and made a bid for name suppression, which was heard in Judge Eddie Paul's chambers.

He granted interim suppression. He also stopped any details from the court file being reported.

According to Judge Paul's ruling, Mr Waalkens also successfully asked for a non-publication order of any information on the court file.

Included in Judge Paul's ruling is Mr Waalkens' application for name suppression.

The QC said in it that the information on the court file was private and could "cause embarrassment to third parties".

A proposed new law may soon make it harder for people to keep their identity secret.

A select committee is hearing submissions on the Criminal Procedure Bill, announced by Justice Minister Simon Power last October.

Mr Power said the law would make it clear that "wealth, reputation or public awareness" were not factors in gaining name suppression.

Defendants would have to prove that "extreme hardship" would result if their names were made public.

"Being famous is not a good enough reason to be granted name suppression," the minister said.

"To ensure public confidence in the justice system is maintained, there must be one set of rules for everyone."

The bill proposes other contentious changes including allowing jury trials only in cases where a jail term of three years or longer could be imposed.

That has been criticised by the Law Society as being driven by purely financial concerns.

Previously, Mr Power said the changes could result in 43,000 fewer court events, 1000 to 1400 fewer cases that needed to be designated for trial by jury and 300 to 600 fewer cases that proceeded to a jury trial, and could cut 13 weeks off the time it took for a jury trial case to go through the pipeline.

- NZ Herald

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