Fri, Jan 12, 2024 2:07 PM

Repeat drink driver caught with can of beer while behind wheel


Tracy Neal

The last time Wayne Gardner was sentenced for driving while drunk he said buying an e-bike was in his and everyone else’s best interests.

Clearly, it wasn’t a permanent solution.

This week the 49-year-old, whose habit which was once described by a judge as “nothing short of appalling”, was sentenced in the Nelson District Court on another drink-drive charge after being caught by police swerving all over the highway while drinking a can of beer.

Gardner wept in the dock as the court heard steps he was taking to try and fix his life, marred currently by other stressors including a very ill family member and struggles with his mental health.

He was sentenced on Thursday to six months home detention to be served at the respite centre where he currently lives. It comes after he earlier admitted driving with excess breath alcohol on a third or subsequent time and driving while disqualified.

The police stopped him on Whakatu Drive in Nelson on the evening of June 4 last year. He blew a reading of 860 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath - almost three-and-a-half times the legal limit, but still less than the two occasions in August 2022, for which Gardner was sentenced in February last year.

The first time, Gardner was caught after driving to a Blenheim supermarket to quell an urge for cheesecake.

He was stopped by police while driving on State Highway 1 at Spring Creek in Marlborough and found to be just over four times the legal limit, with a breath alcohol reading of 1093 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.

The second time, a little over 12 hours later, Gardner crashed his car while driving on State Highway 1 near Tuamarina, the highway between Blenheim and Picton, but crossed the centreline into the southbound lane and smashed into a bank.

He was airlifted to Nelson Hospital where a blood sample showed a reading of 221 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The legal limit is 50mg per 100 ml.

At that time his drink-drive record dated back to 2006, when in May of that year he was convicted on a charge of driving with excess breath alcohol.

Just over a year later he was convicted of driving with excess blood alcohol and in June 2017 he was again convicted of driving with excess breath alcohol, but this time on a third or subsequent time.

At last year’s sentencing in Nelson, for the two drink-drive offences in Marlborough, the judge said Gardner was not only a menace to himself but to other road users as well.

Judge Richard Russell said it was “something of a miracle” Gardner was standing in the court, and it was sheer luck no one had been coming the other way as he veered across the road.

He acknowledged Gardner’s underlying health issues, linked to what was described as him being a functioning alcoholic, but said they paled into insignificance next to the threat he posed to other road users.

“It was nothing short of appalling driving,” Judge Russell said in sentencing Gardner to maximum periods of community detention and intensive supervision and banning him from driving for the next two years.

He was warned then he risked going to prison if he drove a car with any hint of alcohol in his system over the following five years.

Judge Jo Rielly said in sentencing Gardner yesterday that his behaviour was concerning, especially as the latest offence occurred on a busy public highway, and that he was drinking at the time he was driving.

Judge Rielly said an updated probation report showed the steps Gardner had taken this time at rehabilitation including independent verification that supported his claims.

A specialist mental health nurse confirmed that Gardner had been sober for 11 weeks - the longest time in many years.

Judge Rielly was concerned that prison would have a detrimental effect on his progress so far.

On the drink-drive charge Gardner was sentenced to six months home detention with special post-release conditions, and a further month of home detention on the charge of driving while disqualified, to be served concurrently.

He was now disqualified from driving until February 2025, when he was able to apply for an interlock licence.

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