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Judge warns drink driver: ‘Don’t blow it’

A repeat drunk driver has narrowly avoided jail but has been permanently disqualified from driving after a serious breach of his zero-tolerance license.

Masterton 44-year-old Falefa Faiumu was operating on a zero-tolerance license when he blew 1035 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath during a police check on Crayne St in Masterton on July 1 last year.

Faiumu, a vineyard worker, had a previous conviction for drunk driving in 2019 that had led to his zero-alcohol license being issued.

His reading of 1035mcg was over four times the legal limit for alcohol – 250mcg of alcohol per litre of breath – for a regular license.

He appeared in Masterton District Court on Friday for sentencing, having pleaded guilty to two charges for driving drunk on a zero-tolerance license and exceeding the legal limit by 785mcg.

Police pointed out that since last year’s blowout, he had been operating on a curfew and wanted to engage in Alcoholics Anonymous sessions.

Initially unconvinced the offence was redeemable, Judge Barbara Morris noted his alcohol reading last year was “extraordinarily high”.

“There’s no question that that demands imprisonment,” Morris said.

“There’s community concern about drink drivers for very good reason, research shows they are often responsible for a death, especially at a high reading like yours.”

However, Morris went on to say that much had happened since the conviction, citing Faiumu’s steps in counselling and rehab prevention work.

She added that his family history was of concern.

“You loved your father and described him as a role model, but at his hands, you suffered significant physical violence,” Morris said.

“You also had significant physical violence from your mother. That led to difficulties at school, anxiety, panic attacks and the use of alcohol to try and blunt that.”

Taking into account Faiumu’s place as a “loved father” and his work since the conviction in rehabilitation, Morris said she believed imprisonment could be avoided in this case.

“Now that you’ve done all of that work, I think the community is not at risk from you in the way it was.”

She issued one last warning on what would happen if another drunk driving conviction were to happen.

“If a relapse means you drink so much and lose your judgement so much you get into a vehicle and drive it, a lengthy imprisonment term is likely,” Morris said.

“With all the work you’ve done, I’m sure we won’t see you here in the future.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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