It must be one of the shortest journeys ever by a drunk driver – a one-metre reversing manoeuvre. But it was enough to attract the attention of police, who laid a charge against 17-year-old Cameron McNeil.
He walked free from Hastings District Court on Wednesday after a judge decided that, even though he had been caught "driving" with a breath-alcohol level almost three times the legal adult limit, the impact of a conviction would outweigh the seriousness of the crime. That was because his time in the car was so brief, and he did not appear to be planning to travel any further that night.
The court was told McNeil had been at a party in Hastings in July and had made arrangements to stay the night at the house before heading to work the next day. However, he appeared to get into a dispute and left the property to avoid an altercation. It was a cold night and he turned on his car's heater and lights, and backed it about a metre – a manoeuvre that was spotted by police. He then turned the lights off and appeared to pretend to be asleep, police said.
He blew a breath alcohol reading of 724 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. Drivers under 20 are not allowed any alcohol, while the adult limit is 250mcg.
Judge Bridget Mackintosh told McNeil that, while drink-driving was a serious matter, she accepted there were extenuating circumstances in his case, including the short distance driven and the fact there had been no repercussions from his actions.
Police were "neutral" on McNeil's application for a discharge without conviction, and the judge said she was satisfied the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion with the offending. "I'm sure you understand now how careful you have to be around vehicles when you've been drinking," she told McNeil. "Let's hope this is the first and last time you're before the court." She noted he had made a $50 donation to the St John ambulance service.
October 5 2016
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Intoxicated teen escapes drink-drive conviction after reversing car just 1m