More Top Stories

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Driver acquitted of failing to stop, convicted of refusing breathalyser

Tuesday 27 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National


Driver acquitted of failing to stop, convicted of refusing breathalyser

A driver who did not stop ‘immediately’ after police lights and sirens were activated was acquitted for failing to stop but convicted for refusing a breathalyser test.

Takai John Piri-anga-oa Mathew Banaba, who appeared before Justice of the Peace John Whitta for sentencing yesterday, was convicted of refusing a breathalyser test and ordered to pay a fine of $500. He was also disqualified from driving for the next 12 months.

The court heard that on May 12, 2023, between 11pm and 11.30pm, police were driving from the station in Avarua and reaching Avatiu harbour, where they received a call from the communication centre reporting about a driver in a white pick-up truck driving erratically.

JP Whitta said the defendant’s vehicle was identified as it went around the Avatiu roundabout from the Arorangi direction.

He said the police vehicle tailed the defendant, but at that stage there was a car in-between them.

All three vehicles stopped at the crossroads at the Avatiu back road, where the defendant turned left to go towards Ruatonga direction, the car turned right towards Nikao and police followed the defendant.

JP Whitta said the defendant’s car turned into his property and police followed. The officers approached him and requested that he undergo a breathalyser test. A disagreement occurred, and the defendant was arrested, taken to the station, and taken to the Arorangi prison.

He added that the power of police to go to the defendant’s property was questioned by the defence. JP Whitta said the prosecution referred to section 29 of the 2007 Transport Amendment Act, which mentions the powers of arrest, stating that a constable may arrest a person without a warrant if the constable has reasonable cause to suspect a person has committed an offence.

“All three police officers testified that the defendant’s vehicle veered off to the wrong side of the road after he turned off at the back road in Avatiu. All three officers testified that emergency lights and siren were activated, vehicle horn sounded after they turned on to the backroad.”

JP Whitta added that another constable testified that he verbally instructed the defendant to pull over.

The defendant’s house was a short distance away when they turned left. It remains unclear how much time elapsed between the activation of lights and sirens, the instruction to stop, and the defendant reaching his property.

“Police testified the defendant was not speeding, but slowing down to turn on to what was his home. Any person instructed by police to stop would not come to an immediate stop, but slow down and pull over,” said JP Whitta.

“In my view the siren, light and horn and defendant slowly turned into his yard happened at a short time and I’m not satisfied that it can be construed as failure to stop. He did so as he entered his yard, he did stop.”

For refusing to take a breathalyser test, JP Whitta said all officers gave consistent testimony regarding the charge that he refused the test and was uncooperative.

He added that the officers were within their jurisdiction to request the test.

The defendant was represented by lawyer Mona Ioane.