Judge turns back drinks driving ban appeals
Two men fighting to keep their licences after a mandatory 12-month disqualification for driving while impaired have had their appeals dismissed.
Chief Justice Richard Ground dashed any hopes 42-year-old Dean Grant or 56-year-old Derek Lambe had of a landmark ruling.
“The court has no power to take into account the personal circumstances of offenders,” said Mr Justice Ground. “The magistrate was right to issue the sentences.”
His ruling on Friday means that Grant, of Scenic Lane, Southampton, and Lambe, will have to serve out their time off the road.
Grant had earlier appealed a year-long ban and $1,000 fine imposed upon him by Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner last July. That punishment is the mandatory minimum under the law.
He was stopped by police at the wheel of the Honda CRV he claimed was necessary for his job as a carpenter.
In Magistrates’ Court, he denied driving while impaired but admitted refusing to provide a sample of breath. Prosecutors agreed for the impaired driving charge to lie on file.
Defence lawyer Marc Daniels said Grant refused to give a breath sample because he did not like the way he was treated by police.
He said the carpenter would lose his job if he was banned from the roads, because he needs to transport himself and his tools.
Mr Daniels asked the magistrate not to impose a driving ban because “special circumstances” applied.
He argued that Mr Warner had the power to waive or reduce the standard punishment in such circumstances.
Meanwhile, Mr Lambe was fined $800 and disqualified from driving all vehicles for one year last December, after he admitted driving while impaired.
He appealed the sentence last month, when he insisted he did not deserve the year-long ban or the fine which he couldn’t afford to pay.
The St George’s resident works as a steward from 6pm until 3am at Fairmont Hamilton Princess.
He told the court he has heart problems which required triple bypass surgery, and takes five different tablets per day.
He said he rarely drinks, but did so on the date in question due to “very, very” painful surgery to have teeth extracted.
Said Mr Daniels in Supreme Court on Friday: “My client refused to take the test but I humbly ask that you look at the nature of the offence.”
Mr Justice Ground replied: “If he was involved in an accident, if he would have hurt someone, he would have gone to prison.”
Mr Daniels countered: “But I still hang my hat fully on proportionality, and Mr Grant’s offence is on the lower end of the totem pole.”
Said Mr Justice Ground: “You’re asking me to consider whether the disqualification is mandatory or whether there’s any wiggle room to use my discretion. It is a legal question.”
Mr Lambe told the Chief Justice: “If I have to pay for a cab five nights a week from St George’s to Hamilton it would take half my salary.
“I’m on limited income now and I only have six months left on my mortgage payments.
“I’m hoping and praying you will use your discretion because I’m not in the habit of drinking strong spirits. It would save me tons of money and I’m spending a lot of money on medication.”
Argued Crown counsel Nicole Smith: “The defence wants us to disregard the most essential requirements of the law.
“There are four requirements in law that must be fulfilled to qualify as special reasons ...[but] the law is consistent and clear on this point.
“Special reasons have everything to do with the offence committed, not the personal circumstances of the offender.”
Mr Justice Ground agreed: “I am satisfied the law is as it is meant to be, the special reasons have to do with the offence.
“The magistrate had no discretion in the mandatory minimum disqualification requirement for impaired driving, he was right to issue the sentence.”
He continued: “You must be on your guard and if not then you are responsible for your actions. The law is absolutely on line with that and therefore for those reasons I dismiss both appeals.”
Outside the courtroom Lambe told
The Royal Gazette: “Hey I tried. You’ve got to roll with the punches these days, at the very least I tried.”
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