Bust sets drivers on rocky road

By James Fuller

Fines and a loss of licence can be just the start of problems for drink drivers as future employment prospects, insurance and foreign travel can all take a hit, it has been revealed.

Tauranga sale rep Nick Ashton lost the trip of a lifetime last week.

The 26-year-old had won an all-expenses-paid trip for two to watch the All Blacks play in England but lost that when a previous drink-driving conviction was revealed.

Mr Ashton said losing his licence for six months should not jeopardise his winning the prize.

He lost his licence for the offence earlier this year but other inconveniences could follow.

If, for example, he wanted to change career from being a Tauranga Windscreens and Glass sales representative he could not now choose the police force.

"A drink-drive conviction automatically precludes someone from joining the police, regardless of gravity or how long ago it may have been," said a police spokesman.

Chris Wells, New Zealand Fire Service employee relations and human resource services manager, said that was not the case with the Fire Service.

"A single drink-driving conviction does not automatically exclude a person from joining the Fire Service. The gravity and timeframes and number of convictions are all factors to be considered under our current policy for security screening, as are considerations relating to the specific role for which the person is applying.

"For example, if a person has more than one criminal conviction in the last five years, including drink driving, they will automatically be excluded. If a person has had only one conviction in the last five years they will not be automatically excluded, unless they were imprisoned for the offence."

One of the area's largest employers, Tauranga City Council, also said drink-drive convictions would not necessarily prevent employment.

"The issue with drink-drive convictions is like anything to do with past convictions - it would all be a matter of relevance and scale," said the council's communications manager, Elizabeth Hughes.

Owner/director of Tauranga recruitment agency the Right Staff, Claudia Nelson, said the principal issue was more often non-disclosure.

"With drink-driving convictions, it's up to the future employer whether that's an issue for them. It is always a problem if it's not disclosed from the start.

"In most cases a single drink-driving conviction somewhere in the past might be excused, whereas if it is a repeated problem or it is more recent and the role is one of responsibility that could become a factor.

"If it is not disclosed and it comes out later then it's a very big problem, because it becomes an issue of integrity with the candidate."

Employment opportunities are not the only thing which can suffer. Your wallet will also likely take a hit when it comes to insurance.

"Your premiums may go up significantly, you may be uninsurable, or if you fail to notify your insurer of the conviction it may provide grounds for the insurer to decline cover at a later stage," said Adam Hopkinson, partner at Tauranga-based law firm Cooney Lees Morgan.

Darcel Henderson is a personal lines advisor at Bay Insurance, in Devonport Road, Tauranga. She said a drink-drive conviction could affect people in a number of ways and finding an insurer might be the first problem.

"If you were trying to insure just your vehicle, and we had no previous dealings with you, the companies we deal with would not insure you."

Miss Henderson said if an insurer did accept you they would do so with conditions.

"The insurer might increase your excess and then stipulate that you have to have a clean driving record, including speeding offences, for the next two years before reviewing it.

"With some insurers it can depend on how long ago the offence happened. It would be on a case-by-case basis but they can increase your excess by an additional $500 up to a total of $5000."

Those with drink-driving convictions might also want to allow some extra time for travel arrangements.

A spokesman at The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which issues travels advice for New Zealand residents, said advice varied from country to country.

"It depends on the severity and the time period but a lot of the major countries do turn them [people with criminal convictions] away.

"The Pacific area would be a lot more lenient but the major countries, they may turn you away because of convictions. The US, in regard to any sort of convictions, it's pretty much a no-no. Australia and the UK are pretty strict as well."

The spokesman said applications for visas could be denied or they might require a letter from the police stating the details of the conviction before making a decision. For travel to Australia, the Australian High Commission Website states: "If you are a New Zealand citizen with criminal convictions, no matter how long ago your convictions were, or whether they have been removed from government records, you are required to obtain written confirmation from DIAC (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) before you travel to Australia."

However, the most long-lasting consequence is on your record, said Stuart Blake, a barrister specialising in drink drive and traffic law who administers the website www.drinkdrivedefence.co.nz.

"Your drink-drive conviction may disappear from your mind after a few years, but a criminal record will remain," he said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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