A repeat drink-driver has successfully appealed against the length of her prison sentence for an 11th conviction and will be eligible for parole in eight months.
Karen Margaret Telfer, 59, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison after she was caught over the limit twice in as many days. First, she blew nearly 600mg of alcohol/litre. Two days later she was caught behind the wheel with 1300mg, a level where most people would be unconscious.
This month, Telfer appeared in the High Court at Palmerston North to appeal against what was described to the court as a "manifestly excessive" sentence. While discounts had been made for her guilty plea and remorse, Judge Gerard Lynch further reduced the prison term by two months.
Telfer has a long list of driving-related offences, including driving while disqualified, refusing an officer's request to give a blood specimen and refusing to accompany traffic officers. She was also convicted of benefit fraud in 2010, when it was found she failed to declare she lived with her partner. The fraud involved more than $23,000.
Drug and alcohol counsellor Roger Brooking said Telfer belonged to an unfortunately large group of recidivist drink-drivers.
Official figures show almost 6000 drivers faced a third or subsequent drink-driving charge last year. Men made up 86 per cent of the cases and the most common age bracket was 41 to 45.
Brooking pointed to studies - one predicted a person would drive drunk around 300 times before being caught. The other put that figure around 87. "It's a huge problem," he said.
While some repeat drink-drivers simply had problems making safe decisions, many more suffered from alcohol dependency or abuse, he said. Only a small number of offenders were referred for an assessment and the treatment sector was also under-funded, Brooking said.
Telfer's lawyer Jacinda Younger described the latest case as "extremely sad".
"She was horrified about what she had done. She's a lovely lady, she's just had a hell of a run. It's an extremely sad case of a lady who in all other respects is a normal member of society."
Younger said Telfer had been sober for some time but lapsed back into drinking after her partner died in 2010.
"She was devastated. She fell off the wagon and things spiralled out of control."
The extremely high reading indicated she was severely alcohol dependent.
"If a normal person had that level, they would be unconscious and heading towards alcohol poisoning or death," the lawyer said.
Younger said Telfer had vowed to never drive again after the latest offences.