The widow of a Northland man killed by a drink-driver says the loss of her best friend and husband of 30 years has left "a hole in my heart".

That driver, Tracy Todd, of Kerikeri, was sentenced in the Kaikohe District Court this week to 18 months in prison after an Anzac Day crash that claimed the life of John Paton, 53, also from Kerikeri.

The court heard Todd had been driving home about 3.15pm on April 25 after picking up her 14-year-old son from music practice.

As she was turning into a driveway on Kapiro Rd she collided with Paton's Harley Davidson motorcycle travelling in the opposite direction. He died at the scene.


Reading her victim impact statement to the court, Lesley Paton said it was hard to comprehend that her husband had been killed so close to home when he had done nothing wrong.

"When he was killed I lost my best friend. I'm devastated, I can't even imagine a future without him. She [Todd] has created a hole in my heart."

She was receiving counselling and was still unable to return to work. She had tried a few days earlier but had to go home again.

Her husband's death had left her "financially crippled" because she now had to pay a mortgage and debts on her own, as well as the funeral costs.

"I'm not a spiteful person, but this person has taken a life and there must be consequences for that," she said.

Prosecutor Justin Wall said Paton was "entirely faultless". He had been wearing a helmet, driving under the speed limit and had his headlight on. Todd, however, had made a conscious decision to drive after drinking.

When tested two hours later she recorded a breath-alcohol level of 664mcg per litre. The limit is 250mcg.

The risks of driving in Northland were compounded by people who chose to drink and drive, and it had to stop, Wall said.


Todd sat with her head bowed throughout the sentencing. At one stage she addressed Lesley Paton and her supporters, tearfully telling them words could not express her sorrow.

"If I could take back that day I would. I'm so sorry."

Also in court were Todd's sister, who had flown in from South Africa, and her ex-husband, who had travelled from the US.

Defence lawyer Arthur Fairley said the motorist behind her had no concerns about her driving until the crash so it was not a case of prolonged dangerous driving.

Afterwards she had done everything she could, including apologising, pleading guilty, offering to take part in restorative justice and undergoing a residential alcohol treatment programme. References submitted to the court described her as a good mother and a valued employee who had upskilled herself by taking a chef's course.

Judge Christopher Field said the main aggravating feature was Todd's previous drink-driving conviction in 2012, when she recorded a breath-alcohol level of 1082mcg.

"This was a very high level from which, sadly, you did not learn."

By law he had to impose the least restrictive sentence possible but home detention was not enough to deter others or serve the interests of the public, he said.

He sentenced her to 18 months' jail and disqualified her from driving for at least three years. Post-release conditions included ongoing alcohol treatment.

Todd's ex-husband agreed to pay insurance and funeral costs totalling more than $17,000. Judge Field said there was no realistic prospect of Todd being able to pay $10,000 reparation for emotional harm. He also lifted her name suppression.