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11 November 2022

Driver guilty of careless driving and refusal of breathalyser test

Wednesday 13 March 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National

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Driver guilty of careless driving  and refusal of breathalyser test

A 45-year-old man has been found guilty of driving-related charges by a jury.

John Paul Wilson was convicted by Chief Justice Patrick Keane at the High Court in Avarua yesterday after a jury of 12 assessors found him guilty of two counts of careless driving causing injury and refusing a breathalyser test.

The court heard that on November 26, 2022, Wilson drove carelessly causing injury to a motorcyclist and a passenger. On the same day, he refused to take a breathalyser test.

He had denied all three charges and was before the court for the two-day trial that ended yesterday.

Wilson was represented by lawyer Norman George, while the Crown was represented by Mariata Pittman and Jamie Crawford.

The court heard that it was after midnight on the said date that the victim, a staff member at Tamarind Bar and Restaurant, drove his motorcycle from Ngatangiia where he picked up another work colleague and was heading back towards Tupapa.

The two vehicles (the victim’s motorcycle and Wilson’s vehicle) approached Super Brown. The defendant’s vehicle crossed over the centreline and collided with the motorcycle.

The motorcyclist was injured and the passenger had an injury to her thigh bone.

Presenting her closing submissions yesterday, Crown Law’s Pittman said the victim in the case had said he slowed down close to the Super Brown store. He was challenged in court, but he maintained he was a metre away from the centre line. In his evidence, he remembered seeing the wheels of the vehicle over the line, clipping his motorcycle, and this was backed up by the passenger of the motorcycle.

She said the victim’s evidence was that he drove slowly that night and consented to giving blood evidence that showed a result of 20 milligrams of alcohol in his blood, below the legal limit.

Pittman said the victim was not in court with an agenda against the defendant. He was an honest and reliable witness, she said.

She added that the victims in this case were injured by Wilson’s driving.

Pittman told the jury to make their decision based on the Crown’s evidence.

Defence lawyer George in his closing submission argued that what the police did during the accident – opening the vehicle without Wilson’s permission – was wrong and unjustified. He said the seizure of his wallet/pouch and removing his driver’s licence without his presence was also unjustified.

George said that police misused and abused authority, asking the jurors to take this into account during their deliberation.

He said this was the protest put up by Wilson – that police entered his car without his permission, and therefore he did not want a breathalyser test.

George claimed the accident was caused by the victim and there was no independent evidence put to the jury.

He then said both Wilson and the victim were at fault, they were both careless and should both be held accountable.

“Unfortunately, only one person got charged,” he said.

George urged the jury to think carefully.

Chief Justice Keane told the jury they must reach a unanimous verdict, all agreeing on a verdict.

He explained that Wilson did not have to prove himself innocent.

Explaining the matter regarding the police officers and Wilson’s vehicle, CJ Keane said evidence is that the police went to the vehicle to find out who the driver was. A driver turned on the ignition to wind the window up for the vehicle because it was raining and police saw a wallet that had Wilson’s driving licence.

The Chief Justice said Wilson had protested and the wallet was returned to the vehicle.

“In a matter of law, it was wrong for the officers to go into the car,” CJ Keane said.

He said normally, police finding evidence of identity are sometimes allowed and sometimes not.

However, CJ Keane said at this point that matter is put aside because Wilson went to the vehicle and said he was the driver.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict yesterday afternoon.

CJ Keane ordered a presentence report and impact statement report and a sentencing date would be set by the court registrar.

Wilson remains on bail.