A Northland man has been convicted of drink-driving and dangerous driving for grabbing the steering wheel from his partner while she was driving with their two young children in the car.

William Penwarden was sentenced in the Whangarei District Court on charges of dangerous driving, driving with excess blood-alcohol, and threatening behaviour, after an incident on State Highway 1, at Ruakaka, at 11pm on July 10.

Penwarden was a passenger in the car being driven by his partner, with their two children in the back seats, after they had spent the evening in Ruakaka.

The police summary of facts presented to the court said that as the woman pulled on to SH1 in her Nissan, Penwarden pulled the vehicle's handbrake on, causing the vehicle to skid and slow down. Penwarden released the handbrake after the woman yelled at him and she continued to drive north.


As she was driving between 80km/h and 100km/h on a passing lane, Penwarden grabbed the steering wheel and started pulling it, causing the vehicle to swerve across the passing lane. The woman again yelled at Penwarden, but he continued to pull the vehicle's handbrake about 14 times over the next few kilometres, causing the vehicle to slow down.

His actions put the lives of himself, his partner and children at risk as well as other road users, the police summary said.

The woman stopped at Oakleigh service station, took the keys, and ran inside, telling Penwarden to organise somebody else to pick him up. Penwarden then grabbed a child's gumboot from the vehicle and punched the windscreen three or four times, causing it to smash. The couple's two young children in the vehicle were sprayed with smashed glass.

Penwarden left the scene, but was caught shortly afterwards by police. A blood sample showed he had a blood alcohol reading of 124 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, above the legal limit of 80mg. He did not provide an explanation to police for his actions and was arrested.

Penwarden was sentenced to three months' community detention, nine months' supervision and disqualified from driving for six months.