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Justice of the Peace and lawyer wrangle over drink driving charge

Thursday 6 April 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National

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Justice of the Peace John Whitta and defence lawyer Norman George got into a haggle over an excess breath alcohol charge which ended in the matter being adjourned for clarification.

The debate centered around George raising an issue around a request for a partial driver licence at the sentencing of Ngatokoa Terepo on a charge of excess breath alcohol in court at Avarua on Wednesday.

Police had recommended a 12-month loss of licence, adding it was a very high excess breath alcohol reading. 

Terepo was stopped in Nikao on March 11 after he was spotted driving erratically. He was breath-tested by police and recorded a reading of more than 1200mcg of alcohol per litre of breath. The legal limit is 250mcg.

Reparation of $2788 was sought as he had crashed into a power pole which had to be replaced as a result of the damages.

George questioned the reparation amount, saying there was no evidence what age the power pole was.

He also asked the court to take the early guilty plea into account.

George then said the loss of licence was a matter of contention.

His client had to work and the court didn’t have to disqualify him from driving for 12 months.

He said the court could order a disqualification “with or without” conditions.

JP Whitta told George he could not apply for a partial licence, unless once six months of the sentence had elapsed.

He said advice was being sought from the Chief Justice on the matter.

George continued to dispute the matter, arguing conditions could be added.

JP Whitta said it was a matter for the Chief Justice to look at.

“It is not an application, what I am putting to you is a part of sentencing,” George said.

“It is a partial licence by proxy, you are asking for a partial licence,” JP Whitta said.

“It is a condition, it is an interpretation of the law,” George responded.

 JP Whitta told George he needed to make proper submissions to the court.

“I’m not going to turn everything on its head.”