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High breath-alcohol reading ‘disturbing’

Wednesday 10 May 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Crime, National


High breath-alcohol reading ‘disturbing’

Authorities are concerned about ongoing high breath-alcohol readings, with Cook Islands Police nabbing a motorist who tested nearly nine times over the legal limit.

Cook Islands Police spokesman Trevor Pitt said a driver, who was already facing sentencing this week for a previous drink driving offence in October last year, was arrested and charged on Monday after crashing his motorcycle and subsequently failing a breath test. 

“The test set a new high for breathalysers at 2090 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath.  The limit is 250mcg,” Pitt said. 

“The 26-year-old man was involved in a crash on the Back Rd of Tupapa, which was called in to Police on Monday.  He is known to Police and was the subject of a domestic disturbance complaint, earlier in the afternoon.  The driver was remanded into custody.”

Pitt said the most recent high reading is particularly disturbing since the man was able to drive some distance, and therefore presented a huge risk to himself and others. 

“I don't believe it was that far but unsurprisingly, he came off the bike.  He is reported to have been somewhat aggressive as well,” he said.

“He has been charged with driving with excess breath alcohol and careless driving.  He will be appearing for sentencing tomorrow (May 10) on the previous incident.  Habitual offenders are not learning.  It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.  The court needs to be tough.” 

High readings over 1000mcg of alcohol per litre of breath can attract sentencing by a three Justice of the Peace sitting.  

The latest drink driving incident on Rarotonga follows police stopping several drivers in the past few months with exceptionally high breath-alcohol readings.

In March, police arrested a drunk driver who recorded a reading of 1340 micrograms per litre of breath – nearly six times over the legal limit—which at the time was believed to be the highest reading in at least five years.

“Much of the messaging about drinking and driving falls on deaf ears.  There is still no difference in driver behaviour,” Pitt said.

“The worst of it is the risk posed to the innocent, and the responsible.”

Pitt said he wanted to see the names of those who have been disqualified from driving made public, and had made a recommendation as such to the Police Commissioner.

Daryl Gregory, the coordinator of the men’s counselling service Te Punanga Ora’anga Matutu (Te POM), said the latest incident was “as bad as I have heard” in terms of alcohol reading, and he was worried about the fact police were already called out to a domestic disturbance related to the matter.

“Alcohol plays a big factor in many domestic disputes, it can lead to people acting on impulses,” Gregory said.

“A lot of people seem to use alcohol as a crutch.”

Gregory said there needed to be a stronger approach to dealing with domestic incidents.

“There needs to be law changes, and there needs to be an agency that works with all the sector groups,” he said.

“We really need a change in our culture. Everyone will agree that it is not good to abuse women and children, but the way we deal with it is not great.”