A doctor who aimed his yacht at a police boat twice during a pursuit through an Auckland harbour has escaped conviction for a second time in exchange for a $10,000 donation to charity.
Carl Francis Harmer, 35, was discharged without conviction in Auckland District Court today on charges of failing to comply with police directions and operating a vessel dangerously.
Judge Robert Ronayne described Harmer's offending as "brazen" and showing a "breathtaking sense of entitlement", but granted the discharge on the condition Harmer make a $10,000 donation to the Higher Ground drug and alcohol rehabilitation trust.
The boating incident occurred just a week before Harmer was charged with drink driving. He avoided conviction then because of unique circumstances.
At today's hearing, the judge said Harmer, an anaesthetist at North Shore Hospital, had been the master of the vessel Amigo motoring on the Waitemata Harbour in April last year.
The police launch Deodar II saw the yacht wasn't displaying navigation lights and pulled up alongside it. Officers called out to tell Harmer that his navigation lights weren't on. Harmer turned his boat, forcing police to act to avoid a collision.
Officers pursued the Amigo. As it approached Rangitoto, they shone a spotlight on it and it turned 180 degrees towards the Deodar II, forcing police again to take evasive action.
When they found the boat the next morning at Motutapu Island, Harmer said he had been blinded by their lights the previous night and couldn't tell where he was.
Defence lawyer Paul Davison, QC, described Harmer's offending as a "poor piece of seamanship" and said his conduct had been inexcusable.
He said Harmer had been willing to engage in restorative justice but the victims - the police crew - didn't want to meet him. Harmer was sincerely apologetic for any anxiety he had caused them, the QC said.
Judge Ronayne said Harmer acknowledged he had been drinking and he must have been affected, if only a little bit, by alcohol.
The judge said a conviction wouldn't cost Harmer his job, but it would affect his advancement in medicine. It would make overseas travel more difficult and could compromise his aim of becoming a fully qualified specialist.
Judge Ronayne said the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion with the gravity of offending, and discharged Harmer.
The judge had suggested the Higher Ground donation because he detected the potential for Harmer to have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said tonight: "I think escaping conviction the first time is a bad precedent. The second time is incredibly unhelpful."
On the sentence, she believed "anyone who has got money can buy themselves out of being convicted. I don't think that is how New Zealanders expect our law to be applied.
"And it doesn't recognise the seriousness of the offending and the use of alcohol in that offending.
"I wouldn't mind the donation to a charity on top of a conviction ... but to escape conviction twice in a row, that is definitely not okay.
"The rest of us have to abide by the rules, and expect penalties. The law is not geared up to save one group over another."
In April, Judge Nevin Dawson discharged Harmer without conviction on a charge of driving with excess blood alcohol.
The court was told police spotted Harmer driving erratically in Whangarei after leaving a party.
They found the doctor drunk with a dislocated shoulder. An evidential blood sample gave a reading of 110 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood - 30mg over the then legal limit of 80mg. The legal limit is now 50mg.
Ordinarily the charge carries a mandatory six-month disqualification and a fine but Harmer's explanation persuaded Judge Dawson that no punishment was warranted.
Defence lawyer Steve Cullen said Harmer had been invited to the party with a friend and had planned to stay there the night. Some other revellers "took umbrage at the 'Jafas' being at the party" and set upon Harmer.
The court was told Harmer would have been aware of the possibility of permanent nerve damage if his injured shoulder was not treated.
"You were in a position where you had no choice [but to drive]," Judge Dawson said.
The judge was also swayed by submissions that Harmer's burgeoning medical career would be stalled with a conviction to his name.
Dr Carl Francis Harmer
• Discharged without conviction after police found him driving drunk with a dislocated shoulder.
• Judge Nevin Dawson accepted the defence's argument that Harmer had to drive to get urgent medical treatment for his shoulder.
• Discharged without conviction after aiming his yacht at a police boat twice during a pursuit on Waitemata Harbour.
• Judge Robert Ronayne said Harmer showed a "breathtaking sense of entitlement".
• Judge Ronayne discharged Harmer on the condition he pay $10,000 to Higher Ground, which helps people with alcohol and drug addiction.