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Man found asleep in car with keys in ignition loses appeal against impaired driving

A man found asleep in his car by police has lost an appeal against his conviction for having care and control of the vehicle while impaired.

Sabur Burrows argued in the Supreme Court that there was no evidence to prove that he was not just tired.

But Assistant Justice Jeffrey Elkinson said in a June 23 decision that the magistrate was entitled to reject his defence given the circumstances of the case.

“He was in the driving seat, the keys were in the ignition and he was fast asleep,” Mr Justice Elkinson said.

“When he eventually woke up, he mumbled, was unaware of his location, his eyes were red and he smelt of alcohol. He refused a breath test. He had admitted consumption of alcohol, albeit he said it was some hours earlier.

“All this led to the magistrate, having heard this evidence, to recite that he was satisfied that Mr Burrows had care and control of the vehicle and was satisfied that he was impaired by alcohol. The degree of impairment is irrelevant.”

The court heard that at about 3.30am on June 26, 2020, officers found Burrows asleep in his car on South Road in Paget near Harmony Close with the vehicle’s headlights on and the right indicator blinking.

The officers went to wake him, but the court heard that it took them several minutes to do so.

Asked by police where he was, he said Warwick Post Office and, when asked for his date of birth, he responded: “January/August”.

Burrows admitted that he had been drinking, but said it was “six to seven hours ago”.

However, the officers said he smelt of alcohol and appeared unsteady on his feet, so they arrested him on suspicion of having care and control of a vehicle while impaired.

Burrows later refused to provide police with a breath sample and vomited while at the Hamilton Police Station.

In Magistrates’ Court, Burrows denied the offence and said that he had pulled over on his way home because he was suffering from extreme exhaustion.

He accepted that his words were a bit mumbled and said it was likely that he said he was at Warwick Post Office because he saw the row of postboxes at the Harmony Close condominiums.

Burrows also accepted that he threw up at the police station, but said it was because of something he ate, not alcohol.

He was found guilty, fined $1,500 and banned from driving all vehicles for 18 months, but he launched an appeal in the Supreme Court on the basis that there was no evidence he was impaired by alcohol.

Paul Wilson, counsel for Burrows, argued that the magistrate had made the assumption that Burrows had been impaired and that the appellant should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

However, Mr Justice Elkinson said he could see no reason to disturb the finding of Magistrates’ Court.

“This court cannot accept for the purpose of this appeal that the magistrate was wrong in rejecting the excuse of tiredness and in forming a view that Mr Burrows was impaired by alcohol and further that this in turn would have impaired his ability to drive,” Mr Justice Elkinson said.

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