A recidivist drink-driver who killed his passenger in a crash, just a few hundred metres from the bar they had been drinking at, has been jailed. Brent Lawrence Aickin was one of more than 17,000 people charged with a driving under the influence offence in this country last year. For the Siviter family his actions had devastating consequences, cutting short the life of a kind-hearted 37-year-old.
Seven-time convicted drink-driver Brent Aickin has been sentenced to two years and 11 months in prison over the east Auckland crash that claimed the life of his passenger, Mark Siviter.
Judge John Bergseng handed down the sentence in front of a Manukau District Court room that was packed with both men's families seated on either side.
The judge said Aickin had a drink-driving related conviction in every decade since the 80s and he had to "pay a price" for the deliberate choice he had made.
"You don't believe you have an alcohol problem," Judge Bergseng said.
"At some point the message has to come home to you, that if you are drinking you cannot get into your car and drive.
"You are the author of your own misfortune."
While jailing Aickin the judge also disqualified him from driving for five years.
The fatal crash happened in Highland Park on August 9 last year.
Siviter had used an Uber to get to the Tactics Sports Bar that afternoon.
Aickin arrived about two hours later and bought four Lion Reds pints.
The pair then went to the Super Liquor store next door where Aickin purchased a pack of 18 Woodstock cans. Siviter was buying cigarettes.
About 10.10pm they left the carpark together in Aickin's Holden, with Aickin turning on to Aviemore Drive - a busy arterial route where the posted speed limit is 60km/h.
The Crown said he heavily accelerated on the wet road, estimating he reached up to 112km/h, causing the car to fishtail uncontrollably.
The Holden drove over the footpath, before going sideways across the road and crashing into a tree.
"Sadly, Mr Siviter died at the scene," Judge Bergseng said.
Aickin was taken to Middlemore Hospital with serious injuries. There a blood sample was taken shortly before 1am, which returned a reading of 122 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres.
He told police he had one or two beers at the bar and claimed he was hit by another vehicle.
Crown prosecutor Kristy Li said Aickin had a concerning history – six previous drink-driving related convictions - spanning 1986 to 2015.
Li said there were also convictions for speeding, driving while disqualified and driving carelessly.
This showed a repeated "disregard for the safety of others" on the road.
While on bail he needed to be placed on electronic monitoring because he had gone back to the same sports bar - again drinking alcohol and then driving, Li said.
"The exact same combination of actions that caused the death of Mr Siviter in this case."
It was difficult to imagine a more egregious breach of bail conditions, she said.
The court heard Siviter's father, John, had witnessed the bail breach.
Li said Aickin still claimed he was hit by another vehicle despite CCTV footage showing there was no other car involved.
Aickin's lawyer, Jonathan Wiles, said he was sure the defendant had "listened very carefully" to the words shared by Siviter's family in court.
It was a tragedy that had affected all involved, as Aickin had described Siviter as his best friend, Wiles said.
The lawyer said his client had suffered a moderately severe brain injury and was hospitalised that night which likely affected his recollection.
But he had been "perfectly entitled" to have his lawyer investigate all circumstances.
Aickin had strong family support, as evident by those in court, Wiles said.
"Home detention is not a soft option," he said, adding that although sometimes it might seem like that to the general public the court knew otherwise.
"He is very much a broken man."
Family serving a sentence of 'pain and grief'
On the morning of August 10, Siviter's mother, Renee Kelly, was told by a police officer her son had died overnight in crash.
She told the court today that the news left her in disbelief and had made her feel physically ill.
"As the day wore on the horror of it all became very real," she said.
"No parent should ever have to see their child buried.
"That day you made a choice. And the choice you made was a fatal one.
"You caused his death. Our pain and grief is our sentence for the rest of our lives."
Siviter's sister Emma told the court she wanted her older brother to be remembered as bright, friendly, caring person with an "infectious smile".
He was loved by many and that was shown by the hundreds of people who attended his funeral, she said.
"I always thought I would have my big brother there to protect me."
The biggest milestones ahead would never feel complete without him, she said.
Many of Siviter's family spoke of the ongoing anxiety they struggled with, some finding it particularly difficult when either themself or a loved one was travelling in a car.
They did not understand why Siviter got into the car that night, but insisted it was unlike him.
'Any death on our roads is one too many'
After sentencing, Inspector Kay Lane - the road policing manager for Counties Manukau Police - said that any death on the country's roads was one too many and their thoughts were with Siviter's family today.
"The sad reality is that impairment - either by alcohol or drugs - is a factor in a third of all fatal crashes on our roads," Lane said.
"These deaths are not just numbers. Each incident involves a real human loss and in each case there are friends and family grieving the loss of a loved one."
Police were committed to working to reduce death and injury on the country's roads, but it was crucial that everyone played their part in this, Lane said.
"This fatal crash occurred on a Friday night, like any other, with two mates who had been at their local. But the consequences here were devastating.
"Most New Zealanders will be catching up with their mates over a few drinks this weekend. But please - whether it be a Friday or any other day of the week - do not mix alcohol and driving.
"Being social is fun, but if you are going to drink make sure you have a plan to get home: Nominate a sober driver, get a taxi or use a ridesharing app."
Aickin's prior drink-drive convictions:
• Driving with excess breath alcohol third and subsequent (782micrograms) - convicted on September 9, 2015, at the Manukau District Court.
• Driving with excess breath alcohol third and subsequent (535mcg) - convicted on July 9, 2001, at the Auckland District Court.
• Driving with excess breath alcohol (532mcg) - convicted on August 27, 1996, at the Auckland District Court.
• Driving with excess breath alcohol (600mcg) - convicted on April 26, 1989, at the Otahuhu District Court.
• Driving with excess breath alcohol (750mcg) - convicted on October 20, 1986, at the Otahuhu District Court.
• Driving with excess breath alcohol (106mcg) - convicted on February 1986, at the Auckland District Court.
According to Ministry of Justice data obtained by the Herald, 17,006 people were charged for driving under the influence offences last year.
This included people charged with driving under the influence causing death, driving under the influence or exceeding the prescribed content of alcohol or other substance limit.
Of those people 16,295 were convicted of a driving under the influence offence.
Just over a quarter of those convicted already had two or more convictions for driving under the influence.