1st May 2013

I have appeared in many hundreds of drink-driving cases.

Without exaggeration, every case is interesting, and has left me with a tinge of sadness for the client and their family.

Often there are extenuating circumstances when a client is unaware of issues arising in their lifestyle, which causes them to self medicate and drink.

Often they are unaware that something is wrong in their life, and they simply cannot put their finger on it and identify it and seek treatment.

Families are under great pressure to perform. Pressure to avail their children of every opportunity of advancement, education joy and happiness. Both parents generally work, often just to pay the school fees, and their lives are put on hold as they selflessly devote themselves to their children, without regard their own health and circumstances. This type of tragedy plays out in hundreds of households in Australia. No one is exempt from these pressures and demands.

Mrs Smith

Mrs Smith was abused by her father, not in a sexual sense, but being beaten, humiliated, taunted on a constant basis. She married and had three children. Her husband took over from her father, and she continued to be beaten, humiliated and taunted on a constant basis. Her children then took over that responsibility from their father, and so the cycle continued.

In her early years her father had committed her to an infamous psychiatric institution known as Chelmsford, which gained notoriety about 30 years after it was closed and its records eventually released.

Thousands of victims of unauthorised and draconian treatment were compensated for the abuse they suffered,

Mrs Smith recalled nothing about her deep sleep treatment at Chelmsford.

Approximately 5 years after I had appeared for Mrs Smith on her last drink driving charges, a very elegant and smartly dressed woman turned up at my office, and spoke to me with great familiarity. I had absolutely no idea who she was, until she told me her name. The transformation was like the story of Hans Christian Andersen and the “ugly duckling” to the “beautiful Swan”.

Mrs Smith had found out that she had been illegally treated by the doctors at Chelmsford Psychiatric Hospital and had been treated over long periods of time with deep sleep therapy, where the patient is induced into a coma with drugs and is comatose and in a fetal position and fed through a tube-too horrible to even imagine, particularly when they had no knowledge of what was about to happen to them, or when they awoke what had been done to them.

Suddenly armed with this knowledge, the clouds had parted, and Mrs Smith understood her misfortune, and was able to take steps to rectify her life.

Mrs Jones

This matter was referred to me on a Pro Bono basis right the Law Society of New South Wales, as they felt it deserved representation, because of the circumstances of the drink driving offence.

Mrs Jones worked as a caterer for over 30 years and had a completely unblemished driving and criminal record. Mrs Jones drove hundreds of miles every week.

Mrs Jones was happily married until the love of her life died in an industrial accident in about 1990.

Mrs Jones never remarried, although she had a number of relationships.

In about 2008, Mrs Jones met the new love of her life, Mr Wonderful, and commenced to live with him.

Mr Wonderful turned out to be a drug addict, and a very nasty piece of work, and he subjected Mrs Jones to numerous beatings.

On the last of these beatings, Mrs Jones was tied up about five hours, and beaten with a baseball bat, leaving her for dead with injuries requiring surgery.

Mr Wonderful was charged, and convicted, and sentenced to 8 years jail.

On the day prior to Mr Wonderful hearing, Mrs Jones was taken out by her family for dinner. Mrs Jones had two drinks at dinner and was driven home by her brother. Mrs Jones had no intentions of leaving her flat.

Nevertheless Mrs Jones was in a real flap about the court hearing the following day, and what was going to happen to Mr Wonderful for whom she still had affection, notwithstanding his brutality and beatings he had inflicted upon her. As perverse as this may seem, it is quite a regular inverse psychological reaction, where the victim begins to think that they are the perpetrator, and that everything has happened, because something they did or failed to do.

Mrs Jones commenced to drink. Some hours later she received a hysterical telephone call from a friend, who had been very good to her during her hours of darkness, and without thinking about it Mrs Jones went to her friend’s assistance, and of course was pulled over by the police, with a high range alcohol reading.

I appeared at Hornsby Court, and the Magistrate reduced the automatic period of disqualification to 6 months, and imposed a fine and a good behaviour bond.

On my advice Mrs Smith appealed to the District Court.

The Court accepted my submissions on Mrs Jones’ behalf, and found the offence proved, but dismissed the charges under section 10 of the Crimes Act. Mrs Jones was not disqualified from driving, nor was she fined, nor was she required to enter into a bond to be of good behaviour. The court was of the opinion that this lady was not likely to reoffend, taking into account her excellent driving record and the events surrounding the personal circumstances.

Mr White

Mr White was the Maitre d’ of a prestigious restaurant, and their wine connoisseur.

As the restaurants wine connoisseur, Mr White had to attend many wine tasting events, so as to select the most appropriate bottles of wine for the restaurant. A very onerous and responsible task but someone has to do it.

This meant tasting many hundreds of wines on many occasions on particular days. As a taster Mr White, would rinse and clean his mouth with water then in a small cup taste the wine, and then spit the contents of his mouth into a bucket, and then again rinse and clean his mouth with water, and so on.

During this process Mr White would make notes on each of the wines.

At the end of the day, Mr White may have selected 5 to 10 of wine, which he would read taste, narrow his selection to possibly only 1 or 2 wines.

Mr White would then retire to the local coffee lounge, and read the paper and relax for the next hour or two, before proceeding home.

Whilst proceeding home, he was breath tested by the police, and found to be over the limit, notwithstanding that he hardly drank any of the wine.

Unfortunately sufficient alcohol was absorbed through his tongue and mouth to put him over the limit.

Again as Mr White had a good record and he was quite scrupulous with his testing methods and consumption of alcohol, that the court exercised its discretion, and dismissed the charges, pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes Act.

The interesting thing to note about this particular case is that the alcohol was absorbed through his mouth, even though he did not swallow. The other interesting aspect is that he allowed about two hours before commencing driving.