Drink-driving sportswoman ordered back before court

By Kieran Campbell

Photo / NZPA
Photo / NZPA

A drink-driving sportswoman will have her case re-heard after a High Court justice found there was no evidence to support her discharge without conviction and permanent name suppression.

The Gisborne sportswoman has been ordered back before the District Court to be sentenced for a second time, after High Court Justice Christopher Allan ruled her legal team provided no evidence that a conviction would jeopardise her ability to compete overseas.

Justice Allan, in his judgement released today, said the claim by the woman's lawyers that there was a threat to her competing in the United Kingdom if she was convicted had not been backed up with any proof.

District Court Judge Graham Hubble sparked outrage in January when he discharged the sportswoman after she pleaded guilty to driving with a breath-alcohol level of 801 micrograms per litre of breath - double the legal limit of 400mcg.

Defence lawyer Marcia Insley argued her client had reached an "exceptional level" in her sport and been "offered a job" to compete in England. Ms Insley said "a conviction would ruin her chances to travel and enhance her sporting career".

Justice Allan said there was not enough evidence to support the claim that the consequences of a conviction were out of proportion to the gravity of the offence. He said there was also no evidence to support the woman's name being kept secret.

"Ms Insley simply asked for an order. Judge Hubble granted it without any explanation and without giving any reasons," Justice Allan said.

"In my opinion there was no material before the court to support the suppression order made by the judge."

Police made the rare legal move to appeal against Judge Hubble's ruling following widespread criticism, and Crown Law has successfully argued for the case to be re-heard in the District Court.

Defence lawyer Zahir Mohamed said he and Ms Insley planned to submit evidence to support Judge Hubble's original decision. He would not say what the evidence would include.

A transcript of the original hearing shows the police prosecutor raised with Judge Hubble that there was no proof that a conviction would ruin the sportswoman's chance of travelling.

"So I guess the best I can offer is we're neutral, while not formally opposing [discharge without conviction]. In your hands, sir," the prosecutor said.

Judge Hubble said the sportswoman was "exceptional" and he was "satisfied that any penalty imposed at all would far outweigh the possible deleterious effects to this young lady's career".

The woman, who is currently out of New Zealand, will keep her name suppressed until the case is heard "afresh", Justice Allan said.

A date for the new hearing is yet to be set.

- NZ Herald

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