Slow learner on buggy ride
By Alex Easton
IT wasn't as he whizzed past security guards on the stolen ambulance buggy, lights and siren going, that Benjamin Jenson Smith realised what he was doing was stupid.
He didn't twig as he zipped down Ewingsdale Road from the Splendour in the Grass music festival to Byron Bay, or dodged between the Saturday night revellers in town.
In fact defence solicitor Michael Dakin told Byron Bay Local Court yesterday it was only after Smith, 21, of East Lismore, had been stopped by police in Paterson Street and was sitting in a cell at the Byron Bay police station that it occurred to him that pinching St John's Ambulance's converted golf buggy might not have been the clever prank he and his mates thought it was.
Smith yesterday pleaded guilty to charges of taking and driving the $25,000 conveyance without consent, drink-driving and unlicensed driving.
And in case he missed it, Magistrate Annette Sinclair spelt it out for him:
"The incredible stupidity involved in this offence leaves me speechless," she told him.
Smith wasn't the only one raising the ire of police.
Byron Bay Local Court yesterday saw a host of alcohol-related driving offences, ranging from a man who lost his licence for a year and copped a $600 fine after being pulled over by police on Ewingsdale Road moving his car to avoid a possible $70 parking fine; to the learner driver who blew 0.09 after the festival while driving a Kombi loaded with seven people.
In Smith's case, police facts handed to the court said the ambulance buggy had been parked near a security gate at the festival while officers attended to a patient. When they returned it was gone.
The next anyone saw of the buggy was as it was being driven out of the security gates by Smith, who later told police he had about 20 beers that day.
Ms Sinclair placed him on a good behaviour bond for taking the buggy, fined him $800, and disqualified him from holding a driver's licence for 10 months for drink-driving and fined him a further $160 for driving without a licence.