A disqualified driver who had been drinking alcohol and smoking methamphetamine was so intoxicated he can’t remember driving at 100km/h above the speed limit to overtake vehicles, and badly injuring a woman when he crashed.
When arrested after the collision in May this year, Robert William Winiata forcefully grabbed and assaulted a female police officer, who needed two days off work to recover. He also told officers he had Covid-19 and spat at them.
After Winiata was sent to prison for two years and two months in September, he appealed against his sentence in the High Court, submitting his jail term was excessive and he should have been given home detention.
While Justice Dale La Hood disagreed, upholding the jail sentence, Winiata will be eligible for parole in about three months because of the time he spent in custody while on remand.
In the High Court decision, dated November 24, it said Winiata was sentenced on charges of dangerous driving causing injury, driving with excess breath alcohol causing injury, failing to stop or ascertain injury after an accident, assaulting a police officer with intent to obstruct, and driving while disqualified on three occasions.
On May 24, Winiata drove in peak-hour traffic at estimated speeds of 100km/h and 150km/h on Hokio Beach Rd, Levin, where the speed limits are 50km/h and 80km/h.
A truck driver was forced to pull over to avoid a collision while Winiata was overtaking a line of traffic.
Approaching a busy intersection with State Highway 1, he was estimated to be overtaking at 150km/h on a 50km/h section of road. He did not slow down for the intersection and drove over a traffic island.
He clipped a car that was taking evasive action, containing a man and his 10-year-old son.
He then crashed into a stationary car waiting to turn, causing a serious pelvic injury and concussion to a woman, whose restored vehicle with significant sentimental value had to be written off.
Winiata reversed away from that car and drove away, but crashed into a fence before running off.
When arrested shortly afterwards, he struggled with police, spat at them, and assaulted the female officer by forcefully grabbing her. She suffered bruising around her eye, arms and legs, swelling to her wrist, and pain in her neck and lower back.
Winiata had a reading of 721 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, almost three times the legal driving limit.
He told a pre-sentence report writer he had no memory of his offending because of his level of intoxication from alcohol and drugs.
Winiata has a history of driving-related offences. He was disqualified from driving indefinitely in 2017 and convicted of a further six driving offences since then. At the time of the crash, he was on bail.
On appeal, his lawyer argued that the uplifts he got at sentencing for his driving history, driving while disqualified, assaulting the police officer and failing to check on the crash victim’s wellbeing were too harsh.
After arguing that discounts for Winiata’s remorse and background should have been greater, the lawyer said home detention should be substituted for the jail term.
Police argued that Winiata posed a danger to the public, and it was not a mitigating factor that he was under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine.
Justice La Hood determined that the end sentence of 26 months was within the acceptable range.
“The judge was entitled to take the view that the sentence should reflect the need to protect the public, given the seriousness of the offending, Mr Winiata’s history, and his failure to take the opportunities he has been given to rehabilitate.”
Ric Stevens spent many years working for the former New Zealand Press Association news agency, including as a political reporter at Parliament, before holding senior positions at various daily newspapers. He joined NZME’s Open Justice team in 2022 and is based in Hawke’s Bay. His writing in the crime and justice sphere is informed by four years of front-line experience as a probation officer.