PM's motorcade drivers convicted

Three drivers in Prime Minister Helen Clark's speeding motorcade were today convicted on driving charges in the Timaru District Court.

Four police officers, the Prime Minister's driver and a diplomatic protection squad officer were charged with a range of driving offences.

The charges arose out of a high speed motorcade in July last year which whisked Helen Clark from Waimate to Christchurch in time to catch a flight to a Bledisloe Cup rugby test.

Judge John Strettell handed down his reserved decision following an eight-day trial which ended last week.

Helen Clark's driver, whose name was suppressed, was convicted of one charge of dangerous driving, and one of following too close.

Police officers charged were Alister James Doonan, 50, of Timaru; Simon Raymond Vincent, 32, of Ashburton; Ian Howard, 36, of Timaru; and Clinton Brian Vallender, 43, of Waimate.

Vincent, Howard and Helen Clark's driver were all fined $675.

Doonan and Vincent were acquitted of dangerous driving. Howard was convicted of one charge of dangerous driving and one of following too close.
Mr Vallender was acquitted of being a party to dangerous driving or causing dangerous driving.

A diplomatic protection squad officer, whose name was suppressed, was acquitted of all six charges he faced, of being a party to or causing dangerous driving.

The trial was told it was 96 minutes from the time the motorcade left Waimate to when it arrived at Christchurch Airport.

It had travelled 205.6km at an average speed of 128.5km/h.

The slowest leg of the journey was between Washdyke and Winchester where the average speed was 119km/h, followed by the 123km/h average from Waimate to Timaru.

The highest speeds were recorded between Winchester and Tinwald -- across the South Canterbury plains -- with the journey having an average speed of 152km/h.

A spokesman for Helen Clark said, based on legal advice, she would not be commenting.

Name suppression on the prime minister's driver and the diplomatic protection squad officer would remain in place for seven days.

Judge John Strettell rejected applications for discharge without conviction, saying the offences were too serious.

He said he accepted the drivers had been placed in an unfair and untenable position.

There were no procedures for the circumstances they found themselves in, and no instructions as to how they should act.

Given that, disqualification from driving would be unfairly harsh, he said.

- NZPA 

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 23 Aug 2014 04:15:26 Processing Time: 478ms