A ''brilliant, thoughtful and creative'' academic has evaded a conviction which will allow her to continue her work in China.

Dan Han, 39, accepted a position as a bioethics scholar at the University of Otago, funded by her Chinese university employers.

While her husband remained overseas, her son came for the working holiday and they met another mother and son here in similar circumstances.

On January 7, the group were on a road trip around the South Island.


Han was driving south on State Highway 1 at Clarence, in Marlborough, when she became stuck behind a slow-moving truck.

In an affidavit before the court she recounted how traffic gathered behind her and began overtaking both her Nissan and the long vehicle in front.

Han kept as far left as possible but in doing so drifted over the fog-line.

When she tried to veer back on to the road, she over-corrected and fish-tailed before slamming into a power pole.

The car was extensively damaged, as was the pole, and the son of Han's friend sustained such a serious laceration to his forehead he was airlifted to Christchurch Hospital.

He received stitches and made a full recovery, the court heard.

Han and her friend attended a restorative-justice conference'.

''It's clear from the report that Ms Han is extremely contrite and remorseful,'' Judge Michael Crosbie said.


The court heard there was a strict code for educators in China. Judge Crosbie said there was a possibility a conviction for careless driving causing injury in New Zealand would mean her practising certificate would not be renewed.

After 20 years in her chosen field, Han would then have to retrain, at significant financial cost for her family.

There were several references provided to the court, some from Otago University staff who had worked with the defendant.

An adjunct professor described Han as ''brilliant, thoughtful and creative''.

Judge Crosbie said the potential consequences of a conviction were out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending which he deemed at the lowest end of spectrum.

Han was fined $750 and banned from driving for nine months but, crucially, she would leave the country today with a clean criminal record.