One of the Bay of Plenty's worst repeat drink-drivers has clocked up his 20th conviction.

Phillip Noble, 53, who appeared in the Tauranga District Court yesterday pleaded guilty to two driving charges - one charge each of drink driving and driving while disqualified.

He had 19 prior drink-driving convictions and eight previous convictions for driving while disqualified.

Phillip Noble, 53, pleaded guilty to his 20th drink driving offence in the Tauranga District Court yesterday. Photo/George Novak.
Phillip Noble, 53, pleaded guilty to his 20th drink driving offence in the Tauranga District Court yesterday. Photo/George Novak.

His drink-driving offending began in 1981. From that time until October 2, 2006, Noble was caught 17 times.

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His 18th and 19th drink-driving offences were committed in June 2011 and August 2016.

Noble was caught drink driving and driving while disqualified for the ninth time on April 4 this year, after police clocked him driving at 176 km/h on State Highway 1 in Tokoroa.

An evidential breath alcohol test also revealed a reading of 686 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath - the adult legal limit is 250 micrograms.

Noble told police he had only had two drinks and was on his way to National Park to pick up some friends.

Lawyer Michael Toner urged Judge Christopher Harding to grant his client bail until sentencing, despite Noble's two recent breaches of district court bail.

Toner said those failures to attend court were due to Noble's decision to got out of town to visit his elderly mother, who was "very ill".

Noble was keen to be sentenced immediately, he said.

But Judge Harding said he was not prepared to do so without a probation report and wanted to see if anything could be done to help Noble stop offending in this way.

The judge remanded Noble in custody for sentencing on July 31.

'No quick fix' for drink drivers

Ministry of Justice figures showed that in the past 10 years, 10,751 people were convicted in the Tauranga District Court of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

That included 822 people in 2017.

A Ministry spokesman said there had been other cases of people being convicted of drink-driving more than 19 times, including a man convicted 24 times in 2012-13.

David Benton, director of Tauranga's Hanmer Clinic, said alcohol addiction was a chronic illness and there was no quick-fix answer how to stop hardcore repeat drink-drivers.

Long-term heavy drinkers often had some form of brain damage or cognitive impairment which affected their impulse control and their ability to appreciate the consequences of their actions, he said.

However, Benton said there were some successful rehabilitate programmes available if the person was willing to seek and accept help.

Sensible Sentencing Trust Tauranga spokesman Ken Evans said the court's primary role must be to protect all New Zealanders from those who endangered the public.

"For someone to plead guilty to their 20th drink-driving offence and ninth for driving while disqualified is absolutely disgraceful and their sentence must be jail... the courts must send a strong message to him and other offenders."

Evans said Noble should never be able to drive again.

"I think what this man has done is no different than if something was driving around with a loaded gun, and it is only sheer luck that no one was killed."

Drivers convicted in the past 10 years:

2008: 1470

2009: 1620

2010: 1308

2011: 1256

2012: 1062

2013: 898

2014: 747

2015: 776

2016: 792

2017: 822

Source: Ministry of Justice