Freeman holding his tongue

By Corey Charlton


Wairoa District Council chief executive Peter Freeman is refusing to be drawn on whether he supports a council employee who used his job as a reason for avoiding a drink-driving conviction.

Russell James Wayne Baty, 33, appeared at Gisborne District Court last Friday where Community Magistrate Sherida Cooper granted him a discharge without conviction for a drink-driving offence.

Baty, an administration manager at Wairoa District Council, was stopped by police just after 2am on Lucknow St in Wairoa on November 24 last year where he was tested and recorded a breath alcohol level of 498mcg per litre of breath.

The legal limit is 400mcg.

Police opposed both the discharge without conviction and a name suppression application which was ultimately withdrawn.

Baty's lawyer Melanie Tarsau's submissions before the court centred on his role as a mentor to students at Wairoa College and the possibility of losing his job.

Yesterday Freeman said the possibility of an employee losing his job for a drink driving conviction "depends entirely on the circumstances, and I'm not discussing those".

But he noted the magistrate who accepted the council employee's discharge without conviction said she had no evidence from the Council supporting the claims made by Baty and his lawyer regarding the possibility of losing his job.

"Clearly there was nothing in the court apart from the representations that he and his solicitor have made."

The decision follows a similar ruling by Judge Graham Hubble in Gisborne last month, to grant a sportswoman a discharge without conviction or penalty.

The woman was granted permanent name suppression.

- additional reporting Gisborne Herald

- Hawkes Bay Today

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