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11 November 2022

Man avoids reckless driving charge, found guilty of EBA

Wednesday 28 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National

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Man avoids reckless driving  charge, found guilty of EBA

A man who was charged for traffic offences more than two years ago was discharged without conviction for careless driving, but convicted for excess blood alcohol.

Tei John Harawira, who is employed at the New Zealand High Commission on Rarotonga, appeared before Justice of the Peace John Whitta at the Criminal Court in Avarua yesterday, where his verdict was delivered.

Harawira’s defendant hearing was held in two separate sessions: one on July 26, 2022, and the other on February 19, 2024.

He was initially charged with reckless driving and excess blood alcohol for an incident that took place on the night of February 12 to February 13, 2022. He denied the charges on May 5, 2022.

JP Whitta, delivering his verdict, said both security guards at The Islander Hotel identified the defendant.

He said that around midnight between February 12 and 13, 2022, Harawira was driving a pickup truck that was seen by a police patrol leaving the Rehab Night Club car park in Avarua, entering the main road, and reaching the roundabout at the Ministry of Justice. He said it was observed that the truck’s headlights were off.

He said the police sounded their horn to alert the defendant that he was driving without lights. As a result, they attempted to pursue him, but lost sight of the vehicle and were unsure which direction he went.

Police made a U-turn and were soon contacted by the communications centre to attend to a car crash outside The Islander Hotel near the airport.

Upon arrival, the officer recognised one of the vehicles involved in the crash as the one outside Rehab.

JP Whitta said the vehicle had collided with a parked car on the roadside. The defendant was taken to the hospital, where a blood sample was taken to measure his blood alcohol level, which returned a reading of 227 mcg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood.

He was discharged from the hospital, taken to police headquarters, interviewed, charged, and held at Arorangi Correction Centre until Monday, February 14, 2022.

Defence lawyer Norman George disputed the reckless driving charge and contended that the damage occurred by both the defendant’s vehicle and the car parked on the side of the road.

The defendant said he left Rehab with the headlights on and continued to drive. Defence said the parked car was parked the wrong way and therefore the rear-view mirror reflectors were not visible, and it was raining.

Defence had also disputed the EBA charge, questioning the legitimacy of the process by which the defendant’s blood sample was taken.

JP Whitta said he found all police officers in the police vehicle testified to seeing the defendant leave Rehab without his truck’s headlights on and knocking over a series of cones in the process.

However, JP Whitta said that the officers were unable to catch up with the defendant and did not see him or his vehicle until they arrived at the crash site later.

He said that for this charge to be proven, he should be satisfied that the defendant was driving in a similar manner when the crash occurred. Therefore, he did not believe that sufficient evidence was submitted.

JP Whitta said police pointed to the level of damage and the distance the defendant’s vehicle travelled, but he was unable to draw a conclusion on the defendant’s speed.

He said a crash did occur, and a witness said it was not raining at the time of the crash.

For EBA, JP Whitta said the doctor during testimony said she did not remember taking the defendant’s blood sample, and this contradicted other witness evidence who said it was taken. He said a nurse who was an eyewitness observed the consent request and blood sample being taken.

JP Whitta found Harawira guilty of EBA, not guilty of reckless driving, but guilty of careless driving. JP Whitta discharged him without conviction for careless driving, saying that he had taken responsibility for reparation costs.

In an earlier report, Harawira said he paid $770 reparation for the barrier fence and $9600 to the owner of the vehicle.

For EBA, he was ordered to pay a fine of $450 including court cost, $150 for blood sample reparations, and to surrender his driving license with a 12-month disqualification from driving.