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11 November 2022

Kiwi visitor ordered to pay substantial fine

Saturday 25 March 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National

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Kiwi visitor ordered  to pay substantial fine

A New Zealand tourist convicted of excess breath alcohol and careless driving causing injury has been ordered to pay a substantial fine before leaving the country.

Max Urqhart appeared in the High Court in Avarua yesterday for sentencing before Justice Christopher Toogood.

Defence counsel Mark Short, on behalf of his client, admitted to the charges of excess breath alcohol and careless driving causing injury on Thursday.

The charges are in relation to a crash involving two motorcycles at Akaoa, Arorangi on Saturday morning, March 18. A motorcyclist was hospitalised due to injuries sustained in the crash.

The victim had three broken ribs, broken collarbone and broken shoulder blade.

Urqhart was breathalysed and returned a result of 540 micrograms of alcohol.

Police prosecutor senior sergeant Fairoa Tararo recommended a monetary fine for both charges and disqualification of the defendant’s driver’s licence.

Lawyer Short did not object to the prosecutor’s submissions. He said he was impressed with the letters of support from New Zealand for his client.

He requested Justice Toogood not to impose a conviction but a discharge without conviction for the careless driving charge as his client was involved in the community.

Short said his client had met the victim and apologised face to face.

Justice Toogood said the starting point for such a charge where alcohol is involved is imprisonment. He said he hoped Short had discussed this with his client and he would not discharge Urqhart without a conviction.

Short replied that his client did not want to run away from his responsibility and wanted to return to New Zealand to attend to his children.

“I know he is genuinely remorseful, he did say he will take responsibility,” Short said.

In sentencing Urqhart, Justice Toogood said he gave credit to the defendant for staying with the victim until the ambulance arrived and the Court recognised that he did not try to delay the case and apologised to the victim.

The Judge said the victim also wrote a letter of forgiveness and that this was a remarkable feature in the Cook Islands. And Urqhart had also given $1000 to the victim for compensation and motorcycle damages.

He said while a starting point for such an offence is a term of imprisonment, it was not realistic because the defendant is a tourist and it would be inappropriate to keep him in the Cook Islands.

For the EBA charge a $1000 fine or 12-months imprisonment was liable and for careless driving causing injury liable for up to five years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding $5000.

Justice Toogood ordered Urqhart to pay a fine of $350 with $50 court cost for EBA charges and disqualified him from holding a driver’s licence for 18 months.

For the careless driving causing injury charge, Urqhart was ordered to pay a $2000 fine, 18-months disqualification from driving in the Cook Islands and $20 for medical costs.

Urqhart cannot leave Rarotonga until he has paid the fines, he was to receive his passport once paid.