A Christchurch man who was unable to talk to a lawyer while in custody has had his conviction quashed.

In June 2016, police pulled over Zane Kerr as he drove very slowly down the road with the car's hazard lights on in the area of Marshland, Christchurch, just shy of 10pm.

Police found Kerr's car tyres so damaged the car was driving on its rims, while Kerr had been using his cellphone as he drove.

Kerr then admitted to police he was a disqualified driver and confirmed he had been drinking that night.

Advertisement

After refusing to take a breath screening test, he agreed to accompany the police officer to the station.

Three times Kerr was read his rights, but he said he did not understand them and requested to speak to his lawyer.

After Kerr's lawyer didn't pick up, an officer rang lawyers from a list of the PDLA Service, which offers free legal advice to anyone who has been detained by police.

"Thus, over the one hour and five minute period of his detention before arrest,
Mr Kerr's own lawyer was telephoned three times and phone calls were also made to
12 of the 20 or 30 lawyers on the PDLA list," the Court of Appeal decision read.

None of those called answered.

READ MORE:
Auckland police officer appeals conviction over illegal Taser incident after high-speed chase
Discharges without conviction halve in past decade
High conviction rate sparks worries

At that time in Canterbury, the PDLA scheme ran on a list of lawyers, rather than a rostered basis.

The two schemes were remunerated on the same attendance basis, but were organised differently.

Advertisement

Kerr was convicted for refusing to supply a blood specimen in October that year at the Christchurch District Court.

At the time, the judge said it would've been unreasonable for the attending officers to call more lawyers for Kerr.

But in a recently released decision, the Court of Appeal found that the judicial system fell short of what was required, and that Kerr's right to speak to a lawyer was breached.

The officer who dealt with Kerr acknowledged in cross-examination that the PDLA list system worked very poorly - saying it was "almost 50/50" on whether a lawyer answered the phone or not.

Another cop testified that none of the lawyers on the PDLA list answered the phone "about seven out of 10 times".

In 2019, after a national review into the PDLA, a roster system replaced the list.

Advertisement

While the officer - who rang 13 lawyers to no avail - acted to the best of his ability to ensure Kerr could speak to a lawyer, the situation demonstrated the inadequacies of the list at that time in Canterbury, the Court found.

As his right to speak to a lawyer was breached, the Court of Appeal ruled that Kerr's conviction on the charge of failing to provide a blood specimen was quashed.

A judgment of acquittal was entered.