Drink-driving about as bad as it gets: magistrate

SOUTH Grafton woman Tammy Whatley was more than four times over the legal alcohol limit when she stopped her vehicle in the middle of the Pacific Hwy in heavy rain.

Yesterday, in Grafton Local Court, the mother of six was sentenced to a total of 18 months in prison over the incident.

According to police facts, the 38-year-old had been drinking Tawny Port with a friend in South Grafton before she got behind the wheel of a car on the evening of December 17 last year.

With her 14-year-old daughter also in the vehicle, she attempted to drive to Clarenza through a severe storm, hitting gutters along the way.

By the time she reached the Pacific Hwy, two of her tyres were deflated, but Whatley kept driving until the rain became so heavy she couldn't see ahead.

She then stopped the car in the middle of the single northbound lane, with no lights or hazard lights displayed.

Travelling behind her was a woman with her children in her car.

She slammed on the brakes when she saw the stopped vehicle but wasn't able to stop in time and collided with Whatley's vehicle at a low speed.

Whatley then got out of the car and began to walk away with a backpack, leaving her daughter and the car on the highway, but only walked a short distance before she returned.

Under police custody, she later returned a blood-alcohol reading of 0.213.

Luckily, no one was seriously injured in the crash.

Yesterday, Magistrate Robyn Denes said that was the only reason the case wasn't heard in district court, and the sentence was being talked about in months, not years.

It was also heard in court that Whatley had never held a driver's licence and had only recently finished a disqualification period for a previous traffic offence.

Her police traffic record dates back to 1993.

"I can't lose sight of how serious this matter is," Magistrate Denes said.

"This drink-driving offence is about as bad as it gets. If there were any serious injuries we'd be in District Court and talking years, not months. She put her child fairly and squarely at risk."

For the drink-driving offence, Whatley was sentenced to 18 months with a nine-month non-parole period, and a five-year disqualification.

For a charge of driving despite never being licensed, she was sentenced to six months and a three-year disqualification period.

Whatley was also handed a one-month sentence over charges of larceny, dishonestly obtaining advantage for financial gain and goods in custody.

The charges related to an incident on November 14 last year, in which police investigating the suspected theft of a credit card identified Whatley as one of three women making a transaction with the card at a South Grafton service station.

Police facts show that when approached by officers in a park that day, the 38-year-old said she had found the bank card on the road and used it.

A brand new Optus phone found on her person was believed to have been bought with the card.

Magistrate Denes likened Whatley's actions to having a "finder's keepers" mentality, noting that if it was Whatley who lost a card she wouldn't be happy if someone else used it.

A further six-month jail sentence was handed to Whatley yesterday for the breach of a good behaviour bond, which related to violence and drug offences.

With all sentences to be served concurrently, she will be eligible for parole on December 3.



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