Do we need a higher maximum penalty for recidivist drink drivers?

May 23rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

He’s thought to be the worst drink-driver in the country, yet there’s little keeping him off the roads.

Brian Mitchell Hart, 58, from Hawkes Bay, has 20 convictions for drink-driving and 11 for driving while disqualified, and has been sent to prison 33 times for these and other offences.

But every time he gets out, he gets his licence back, drinks again and gets back behind the wheel.

He has twice been disqualified from driving “indefinitely”.

On one of those occasions, in 2002, he underwent counselling and treatment for alcohol addiction and after an assessment by a government-approved counsellor, was approved to get his licence back by the New Zealand Transport Authority.

Under the law, the toughest sentence for repeat drink-drivers is indefinite disqualification, which can be imposed only under a specific set of circumstances.

Driving without a licence is obviously of no concern to Mr Hart, as is driving drunk.

I think you need an escalating penalty regime. But the problem is that the maximum sentence is just two years. Maybe we need a law change that says after perhaps your 10th conviction, then the maximum penalty increases by a year for each conviction up to say seven years.

Otherwise how else can you stop him?

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32 Responses to “Do we need a higher maximum penalty for recidivist drink drivers?”

  1. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Crush the car with him still in it.

    Done.

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  2. Harriet (4,972 comments) says:

    LOL………..we need higher minimum ones!

    Locking people up for their second offence is the way to go. Send them to jail for their annual four weeks holiday. They keep their job. Mum and the kids keep the holiday pay. Give the prisoner a week off for good behaviour.

    You can then house 16 prisoners a year for the cost of housing just 1 prisoner – the one that DPF is alluding to!

    NSW currently do this – but for weekends – the prisnor goes to jail on Friday night at 6 pm and is released at 9 pm Sunday night – or at 6pm for good behaviour. Nearly all prisoners want to be released at 6pm – and most are.

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  3. unaha-closp (1,165 comments) says:

    Has he hurt anybody?

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  4. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Not hard to spot part of the problem:

    He has twice been disqualified from driving “indefinitely”. On one of those occasions, in 2002, he underwent counselling and treatment for alcohol addiction and after an assessment by a government-approved counsellor, was approved to get his licence back by the New Zealand Transport Authority.

    Not for the first time, counselling has been shown to be a complete waste of time and money.

    This recidivist should be locked away – only this time ‘indefinitely’ should mean exactly that!

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  5. gump (1,649 comments) says:

    The guy is obviously addicted to alcohol, and addicts don’t respond rationally to the threat of imprisonment.

    There really needs to be an alternative to imprisonment for obdurate alcoholics like these. In the past they used to be sent out to Rotoroa Island (and women went out to Pakatoa Island).

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  6. beautox (422 comments) says:

    We could resort to Shariah..

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  7. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    There were no motorcars when the Koran was written, but surely the answer lies in the Koran.

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  8. GPT1 (2,122 comments) says:

    The short answer is yes.

    I am a litigator which includes criminal defence work. I am not a big believer in massive prison sentences being a deterrent. So for example if three months inside isn’t going to deter someone I don’t really think six months is.

    I am however a big fan of community safety and there are some people who, by their actions, show that they are not safe in the community.

    There are a small number of hard core recidivist drink drivers who, in my view, meat that criteria. They drive drunk and disqualified and as best as I can tell are either too drunk and/or too arrogant to give a shit. Whether it’s straight out criminal intent or addiction issues or both the upshot is they are dangerous to other road users.

    As I said above in terms of deterrence two years (or 18 months with a discount for a guilty plea out in 9 months with release conditions) is pretty good but it’s not much of a break for the community.

    The Court of Appeal has come up with a contortion to allow cumulative sentences for dis/eba but that still only allows 36 months if a meaningful guilty plea discount is given (arguably these charges are generally easy to prove so the full 25% discount allowable under Hessell may not need be applied but for the purposes of this comment I am treating it as standard).

    My view is that there should be an increase in the penalty for multiple drink driving or a next tier of 10th and subsequent with a maximum of 5 years.

    Whilst I am on it disqualified driving should be treated as an administration of justice charge rather than road safety. If the driving was dangerous that is a separate charge. So rather than dumping more and more disqualification on a driver for breaches my view is that it should be treated as a breach. Fine the first time, cw second, then rebuttable presumption of prison.

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  9. wikiriwhis business (4,016 comments) says:

    If he keeps re-sitting his drivers test he is dauntless and should be studying higher education.

    Alcohol is truly limiting this man’s obvious potential.

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  10. Northland Wahine (667 comments) says:

    He should never be allowed to re sit it full stop. I know it won’t stop him from driving but at least he can’t kid himself that he deserves to have a licence.

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  11. wikiriwhis business (4,016 comments) says:

    Personally, I wish I could go into detox at Auckland City Mission. Those guys are totally spoilt.

    Problem is |I got no addictions.

    Just battling the political economic maze our govts keeps sending us deeper into.

    Unfortunately, no retreat for the battlers.

    Prayer is my refuge, shield and shelter. Praise God in Jesus Christ. He has overcome the world.

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  12. wikiriwhis business (4,016 comments) says:

    “There were no motorcars when the Koran was written”

    Motor cars are described in Nahum 2.4 of the Bible.

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  13. Judith (8,534 comments) says:

    This sort of offender will not be stopped, even if you keep him in prison for ten years. Eventually he will be released and he will start drinking again, and he will then drive.

    His problem is not his reckless regard for the law, but his consumption of alcohol. Until he addresses that problem he will continue to be a threat. Making him undergo drug and alcohol counselling will not work, unless he decides he has a problem and whatever it is that makes him drink, is sorted. Of course, he may simply be an alcoholic.

    If the Courts really want to be effective, then they need to find a law to stop him drinking and as far as I know, there isn’t one.

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  14. Harriet (4,972 comments) says:

    “…….I am a litigator which includes criminal defence work………So rather than dumping more and more disqualification on a driver for breaches my view is that it should be treated as a breach. Fine the first time, cw second, then rebuttable presumption of prison……..”

    I’ve been concerned about that matter for years.

    People delibrately and purposly breach a specific and clear direction from the Courts – as the result of having already broken a law – and it is treated as the equivilent of telling a school teacher to fuck off.

    First time offence should be no less than spending your annual holidays behind bars – with a week off for good behaviour.

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  15. wikiriwhis business (4,016 comments) says:

    “If the Courts really want to be effective, then they need to find a law to stop him drinking and as far as I know, there isn’t one.”

    Hamilton police actually had a blitz on recidivist drink drivers (maybe still have) invading their homes at will.

    Illegal as I should think although I understand police do not need a warrant to invade private prmises any more.

    That was a slow build up from legalising police to be able to drive onto private premises for traffic police when suspects pulled into private premises.

    Now they just target individuals when ever they like.

    I was also told it is now illegal to appear in groups in Oz. There’s a cap you are not allowed to be seen with in public.

    Freedom of speech is now also illegal in public and the Oz govt has gestapo like figures listening to conversations in public places.

    Of course, over here we are not allowed to criticise CYFS or talk about suicides on social sites. A stepping stone against freedom of speech in NZ. The gateway to Fascism.

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  16. MH (757 comments) says:

    A bracelet on his ankle that shrinks tightly around his leg when the GPS track notices him moving faster than 30kms/hr. He will be able to use a wet ticket overide that allows him to pop on and off public transport.

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  17. wikiriwhis business (4,016 comments) says:

    “Has he hurt anybody?”

    Police are as human as anyone else and when they scold driver’s for blatantly disrespecting the road it is because they see first hand the carnage on the roads. Police have a duty to inform relatives of deceased drivers from car wrecks.

    I do know police are underhanded to get results but junior constables have to be responsible for roading incidents and the dead’s relatives. Cleaning societies mess’s.

    If an officer berates you on the road believe they know what they are talking about.

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  18. MT_Tinman (3,187 comments) says:

    RRM (9,126 comments) says:
    May 23rd, 2014 at 1:04 pm
    Crush the car with him still in it.

    Done.

    I would have said just cut his right foot off but that’ll do it.

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  19. MT_Tinman (3,187 comments) says:

    wikiriwhis business (3,512 comments) says:
    May 23rd, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    If an officer berates you on the road believe they know what they are talking about.

    What a load of pure unadulterated crap.

    The pig telling you off is more than likely a worse and considerably less considerate driver than you are, mouthing off because he/she can.

    Ignore the bastards!

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  20. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    These people are a pest to be sure but how many are we dealing with. Maybe a dozen??

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  21. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Once again look to one Geoffrey Palmer, he who diluted penalties in every facet of law breaking, that was predominantly the domain of leeching lefties. Prior to his tampering with penalties, if one was caught driving while disqualified, and under 21, it was three months detention centre for first offence, if there was a repeat it was off the Invercargill for 0-2 years. Those days only idiots drove whilst disqualified. If you got caught pissed you copped it, not home detention, periodic detention, community based sentences, and all the other namby pamby trendy Labour crap, you went away, or got the hell fined out of you. Seeing the state of defendants appearing at court these days shows there is no respect for judiciary in any shape or form. I remember being with a friend, we were both in court for having a bit of a scrap on a Saturday night, he arrived at court without a white shirt and tie, only to be told to get home and come back appropriately attired. As we were on early the case was adjourned until he returned, we sat there half the bloody day waiting to get recalled. And you called the judge (magistrate as it was then) Sir, standing to attention. No wonder there is no respect for the law today Palmer!

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  22. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    ‘Geoffrey Palmer, he who diluted penalties in every facet of law breaking’
    Examples please.

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  23. DrDr (114 comments) says:

    I think this guy is beyond redemption and I would like to think that his family should be taking more responsibility for him. The lawmakers certainly need to come up with some harsher penalties and any rights he might have under the Bill of Rights should have well and truly been forfeited by now as he seems to have no regards for the rights of the rest of us who want to be safe on the roads.

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  24. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    The focus on penalty in this case is incorrect I believe. It’s obvious that the deterrent does not work for this person. We then move on to safety of others in which case lock him away from the rest us for a significant period.

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  25. goldnkiwi (1,304 comments) says:

    Locking up for weekends sounds great, ditto with the holidays. Anecdotally I have heard it said that PD/Community service is more of a pain than going to jail, as it interrupts an otherwise normal existence for longer.

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  26. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Community work is also generally more effective in rehabilitation outcomes.

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  27. jcuk (687 comments) says:

    MT_Tinman 2.54
    No problem he will just get an automatic car and drive with his left foot.

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  28. pidge (56 comments) says:

    An underlying problem is his alcoholism. A course of alcohol counseling based around Disulfiram may help fix that – regular injections of Disulfiram results in the consumption of alcohol giving you an almighty hangover.

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  29. Hodor (38 comments) says:

    Shoot his fuckin kneecaps off. He will it hard to drive with both legs in casts, drunk or not

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  30. lolitasbrother (698 comments) says:

    I love this redneck column, check this out
    RRM (9,127 comments) says: May 23rd, 2014 at 1:04 pm
    Quote ” Crush the car with him still in it.
    Done.” unquote
    Sad Farrar sad. get off it say something better

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  31. Sadu (129 comments) says:

    I honestly don’t understand how people can rack up 30 serious convictions.

    30 incidents of being caught drink driving is more than enough for the death penalty in my book. It’s likely with that much drink driving he has already killed at least one person, if not it’s statistically highly likely that someone else will die because of this cunt.

    I don’t believe in death penalty for first or second time serious offences because there is always a chance that the perp is innocent. But there comes a point where there are so many serious offences that you have to lock them up forever or remove their right to live. Nobody can seriously argue that the state got it wrong 30 times, and I think most would agree that the chances of him killing someone right now is very high.

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  32. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    Yes, and stoned drivers as well, if their actions result in motor vehicle accidents causing severe injury and loss of life while driving intoxicated. While we’re at it, let’s lower the threshold for an intoxicated blood alcohol reading too.

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