High-range drink driver in court

WITH the words ‘Bad Boy’ printed across the shoulder of his shirt, stonemason Clinton Ellis made his Severity Appeal before Lismore District Court, asking the judge to reduce the penalties imposed for his high-range drink-driving offence.

“I wasn’t legless,” Ellis, 45, of Stony Shute, told Judge James Black on Thursday when asked by the Crown how affected he was by the alcohol.

Ellis last year pleaded guilty in Lismore Local Court to driving over four times the legal limit with a blood alcohol reading of .210 on Stony Chute Road near Nimbin, late at night on August 28.

Police stopped the vehicle after the driver failed to dip its high-beam lights and instead the indicators went on.

A magistrate fined Ellis $750, disqualified him from driving for two years and placed him on a two-year good behaviour bond.

Ellis explained to Judge Black that he was only driving his wife’s new Ford Explorer the 10km home from the Nimbin Hotel because she became ill after celebrating the birth of their third child.

He said she was the designated driver that night.

“Silly me, I took the keys,” Ellis said.

“I had five schooners sitting in front of me.

“I knew it was wrong but I didn’t know I would be driving.

“I took a punt and that’s the price I paid.”

Cross-examined by the Crown, who opposed any sentence reduction, Ellis said he had never driven his wife’s car at night before.

“You say it is the first time you have driven home intoxicated?” said the Crown.

“My oath,” replied Ellis.

“Obviously you are a pretty seasoned drinker?” said the Crown.

“I wolfed those beers down,” Ellis said.

“I didn’t think I was that intoxicated. I wasn’t legless.”

Lawyer for Ellis, Steve Bolt, described the offence as an error of judgment with his client feeling obliged to drive home because the babysitter was waiting to leave.

“He was not familiar with his wife’s new vehicle and hit the indicator switch,” Mr Bolt said.

“The inability to use the high beam in itself was not inherently dangerous, or indicates a lack of control over the vehicle.

“The two-year disqualification is excessive and the magistrate failed to regard the impact on his employment.”

Judge Black said he did not find anything significant in the failure to dip the headlights.

“A lot of drivers don’t dip their high beam. It causes an irritation,” he said.

“I don’t say it causes danger.”

Judge Black allowed the $750 fine to remain, set aside the good behaviour bond, and reduced the two-year disqualification to 18 months.

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