Sentencing for a Whangarei man who led police on a high-speed chase with his partner and 3-year-old child in the vehicle could not proceed because the presiding judge felt uncomfortable with one of the charges laid against him.
Graham Tautari, 28, reappeared in the Whangarei District Court on Tuesday for sentencing after earlier pleading guilty to charges of disqualified driving, reckless driving, failing to stop and ill-treatment to a child. He also has a charge of burglary on which he hadn't entered a plea.
Tautari led police on a 20-minute, high-speed chase through Whangarei on July 31 before road spikes were used to stop him. The child has been referred to Child Youth And Family (CYF). The chase began after a disturbance at Tangihua Rd, Maungakaramea.
Tautari then took off in a Mitsubishi Pajero but police spotted the vehicle near Pompallier College, on State Highway 14, 20 minutes later. Police pursued the vehicle, resulting in a chase through central Whangarei and then north through Kamo.
Tautari reached speeds of up to 85km/h through the city and in excess of 110km/h on winding rural roads and his driving forced oncoming vehicles to swerve to avoid collisions. He was eventually stopped on Rushbrook Rd, Ruatangata, about 19km northwest of Whangarei, after police used road spikes to deflate the vehicle's tyres. The vehicle travelled about another 800 metres before stopping. Tautari then ran off, but was caught by police a short distance away.
In court on Tuesday, Judge Greg Davis first asked police prosecutor Sergeant Paul Brocas whether or not the 3-year-old was fully restrained when Tautari was finally stopped. Mr Brocas said judging from the photos police took of the child seat, it appeared that he was restrained.
The judge said if that was the case, what then gave rise to the charge of ill-treatment or wilful neglect of the child likely to cause grievous bodily harm?
Judge Davis found it difficult to comprehend how Tautari's conduct could have likely caused the child serious harm or injury.
Mr Brocas said the boy was traumatised by Tautari's driving and that there was a risk of injury in the dangerous way the car was being driven around.
Defence lawyer Kelly Johnson suggested that guilty plea on the charge of ill-treatment or wilful neglect be withdrawn and all matters be put off to October 6 when the charge of burglary would be heard. Police didn't oppose the move and all charges were adjourned to that date.
Judge Davis said while he felt some discomfort in the form the charge was laid, there was no doubt that Tautari's driving was appalling and warranted a sentence of imprisonment.