The aftermath of the crash on July 8, 2016. PHOTO/FILE
HAYLEY GASTMEIER and SEAMUS BOYER
A drink-driving charge has been dropped against a serial offender whose car ploughed into a power pole, because the arresting officer was not available to give evidence.
Instead, Philip Veitch Wilson, 54, was convicted of careless driving, after police struck a deal with his lawyer, Whanganui’s Peter Brosnahan, known for helping clients fight drink-driving charges.
Wilson, who has previously been jailed and twice indefinitely disqualified for driving drunk, was this week banned from driving on the careless driving charge, but could legally be back behind the wheel in four months.
Police have since confirmed that the drink-drive charge was dropped in Masterton District Court on Tuesday due to the charging officer being unavailable, but will not say why.
On July 8, 2016, Wilson, from Dannevirke, crashed his Toyota car into a power pole on Western Lake Rd, Featherston.
Following the crash, he was charged with careless driving, and also drink-driving.
Wilson has a long history of drink-driving convictions, with the first in 1985 when he was banned from driving for six months and fined $330.
He was subsequently convicted for drink-driving again in 2003; for refusing a blood sample in 2008; and for drink-driving while disqualified in 2009.
On that occasion, according to a High Court document, he recorded a blood alcohol reading of 313mg – nearly four times the then-legal limit of 80mg – and was sentenced to a year of intensive supervision, six months community detention, and indefinitely disqualified from driving.
Five years later, Wilson was jailed for nine months, later reduced to seven on appeal, when he again drove drunk, this time at 3.15am on October 10, 2014, recording a blood alcohol reading of 146mg.
In Masterton District Court on Tuesday, the drink-driving charge was withdrawn with police prosecutor Sergeant Tom Andrews saying there had been “difficulty with that charge”.
He added that Wilson had “an extremely poor driving record”.
In a statement to the Times-Age Area Commander Inspector Donna Howard confirmed the charge had been withdrawn, but offered few details as to why.
“This was due to the charging officer being unavailable.
“We cannot go into details of why the officer was unavailable.”
She said police took drink-driving cases seriously, and worked to hold offenders to account.
Referring in court to his client’s crash, Mr Brosnahan said it was “simply a matter of the car going off the road”.
Judge Arthur Tompkins said the incident happened “in the middle of the afternoon” at 2.40pm.
Wilson was not injured and had already got out of the vehicle when emergency services arrived.
The power pole he crashed into had been brought down.
Mr Brosnahan said Wilson had never before been in a motor vehicle crash, but conceded he had a “bad record in terms of drink-driving”.
The judge asked Wilson what he remembered from the collision.
“I don’t know if I was distracted, or sneezed, but next thing I knew I was jamming on the brakes,” Wilson said.
“I got out of the vehicle and I was pretty shaken up.”
Mr Brosnahan said Wilson had remained with the vehicle.
Wilson explained he had been at Wharekauhau lodge helping a friend who was dealing with the internet connection.
He had been travelling back towards the Featherston township when his vehicle was written off.
Judge Tompkins queried whether “it was a momentary loss of attention” on the defendant’s part.
Wilson confirmed this, saying “next thing” his vehicle was “going sideways”.
“I don’t know if I over-corrected, I don’t know what happened.”
Earlier, Mr Brosnahan said Wilson would be pleading not guilty to the careless driving charge.
But Mr Andrews said he had already indicated that Wilson would plead guilty once the drink-driving charge had been withdrawn.
Judge Tompkins said according to Wilson’s criminal record, he had “been driving drunk since 1985”.
“The criminal history demonstrates that Mr Wilson has a 30-year history of driving drunk.”
The judge said given the careless driving charge, it was an opportunity for Wilson to take rehabilitation measures for his drinking.
Wilson told the judge that he had already sought help for his drinking, accessing mental health services in both Masterton and Dannevirke and attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
“I got myself right and I got myself a job,” he said.
“In that time, I’ve stopped taking medication for depression and I’m very happy with my life.”
After discussing it with his lawyer, Wilson pleaded guilty to the careless driving charge.
Judge Tompkins convicted Wilson, disqualified him from driving for four months and ordered him to nine months supervision.
He also ordered Wilson to undergo an alcohol abuse assessment and, if suitable, to attended any courses recommended.