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DUI ferry pilot referred to head of civil service for disciplinary action

Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport (File photograph)

An investigation into a ferry pilot convicted of driving a public ferry into a floating dock while impaired has been completed, the Department of Marine & Ports has revealed.

A recommendation for disciplinary action against Ascot Lightbourne, 60, has also been submitted to the Head of the Public Service.

The news came after Lightbourne, a Government ferry pilot, was fined $1,000 last Monday after he admitted being at the wheel of the Serenity while impaired and ramming the dock at the Hamilton ferry terminal.

He faced a maximum penalty of $1,000 and a year behind bars for the offence – but his licence could not be taken away, which is automatic for drink driving offences.

He was suspended from the job at the start of the year while an investigation was carried out.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport said last week that the status of his boating licence would depend on the outcome of the disciplinary process.

She added that the amendments made to the Marine & Ports Services Act would allow the Minister of Transport to cancel or suspend a boating licence if required.

Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport, last week announced legal changes that could see a $10,00 fine and/or a year in jail imposed on people convicted of being out in a boat while impaired.

He said last Friday: “Safety on the water is as important as safety on our roads and the actions of a few individuals who jeopardise the safety of others must be met with appropriate penalties.

“I am pleased that this week the Governor has given her assent to the new Marine & Ports Services Act which sets out increased penalties which reflect the seriousness with which the Government views water safety and the safe operation of boats and other watercraft.”

The amendment listed a $10,000 maximum fine and/or a year in jail for the first offence and a $20,000 maximum fine and/or two years imprisonment for subsequent convictions.

The previous maximum penalties were a $1,000 fine and/or a year in jail for a first offence and a $4,000 fine and/or two years imprisonment for subsequent offences.

The alcohol limit was also dropped to 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood for skippers who operated an “island boat”, which included ferries.

The previous limit was 100mg/100ml.

The legal limit for the skipper of a private boat will be 80mg/100ml – the same level as to road users.

Serenity collided with the Hamilton terminal around 1.25pm on December 31 last year.

Another crew member took command of the ferry, which was headed to Dockyard, and Lightbourne was escorted back to the overnight dock in Hamilton where he admitted he had been drinking.

Police were called and attempted to arrest Lightbourne but he pushed police and kicked out at them as he was detained.

The officers called for assistance and Lightbourne was subdued.

He pleaded guilty on January 4 to impaired boating and two counts of assaults on police officers.

A social inquiry report was ordered and the case was adjourned until last week for sentencing.

Lightbourne was also fined a total of $1,000 on Monday for the assaults.

Juan Wolffe, the senior magistrate, told Magistrates’ Court that he could not suspend Lightbourne’s pilot’s licence – but added that he would have if it had been possible.

Michael Weeks, the chairman of the Water Safety Council and a Progressive Labour Party MP, called for regulations on the water to be brought into line with those for the roads after Lightbourne’s conviction.

Scott Pearman, the shadow minister for transport, demanded that the transport minister break his “deafening” silence after he failed to reply to questions on boating laws for two days.