No mercy for low-range drink drive offenders
DRINK drivers with low readings and good driving records can expect little leniency in Grafton Local Court if recent decisions from the bench are any guide.
During Monday's sitting of Grafton Local Court, Magistrate Karen Stafford appeared to set an example from the outset, refusing to use 'Section 10s' to grant leniency to people whose offences were considered low on the scale of seriousness.
Section 10 refers to the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, which allows a court to find a person guilty of an offence but to discharge the matter without recording a conviction.
Grafton horse trainer Allan Francis Ryan found his good driving record over 35 years, demonstrated need for a licence and a low-range reading were not sufficient to trigger a Section 10.
His reason for driving that night - a surprise call to collect his grand daughter from work at around 8pm on Grafton Cup night - while met with sympathy, also did not meet the magistrate's guidelines.
"On any list day in the courts on my circuit, a third of the people I deal with are drink drivers," Ms Stafford said.
"I know there's almost no public transport and no Ubers and young people get stuck needing a lift.
"People have many reasons for getting behind the wheel, but I also know how many die because of this."
Ms Stafford said Mr Ryan's low-range reading was not just above the 0.05 level and while his record was good, it was not unblemished.
She said the need for deterrence was a key factor in her thinking for the sentence.
"I have to send a message and Section 10 does not address the need for general deterrence," Ms Stafford said.
"The penalty also has to reflect the great harm done the community in Australia by these offences."
Ryan was fined $300 and was disqualified from driving for three months, the automatic minimum for the offence.
The sentence set a precedent for another two people on low-range PCA charges; Troy James Sayer and Stephanie McConnell.
"I could see you were in court for the previous drinking driving case," Ms Stafford said to Mr Sayer.
"So I will not need to repeat myself."
Mr Sayer was fined $500 and disqualified from driving for three months.
Ms McConnell's solicitor Greg Coombes said his client was a "morning after" low-range PCA offender and a single mum who needed her licence and had since undertaken the Traffic Offenders Program.
Ms McConnell was fined $400 and disqualified from driving for three months.