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Fifth drink drive offence after divorce papers served a turning point in man’s life

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Evan Wallace says his fifth drink-drive conviction was linked to him receiving divorce papers days earlier. Photo / 123RF

The end of Evan Wallace’s marriage, which he said drove him to his fifth drink-drive offence, was also the catalyst for what a court heard is the start of life-changing healing.

Wallace’s story of injury, loss and stored-up grief was a lesson in the consequences of remaining stoic, and while no excuse for his behaviour, they were admissions which helped him avoid prison.

“I get the impression you tried to soldier on,” Judge Jo Rielly said of the life story which included the death of his sister as a teenager, serious head injuries he had suffered in recent years which had required him to undergo a lot of rehabilitation.

But the incident linked to his actions in March this year was that days earlier he had received divorce papers, which he knew meant the end of his 21-year marriage.

The Nelson truck driver was instead sentenced in the Nelson District Court today to community detention, as part of a four-pronged sentence for his fifth drink-drive offence, which occurred while he was on a zero-alcohol licence and after an incident at a local supermarket.

A man who hit a parked car outside Pak'nSave in Richmond, near Nelson, and then drove off at speeds of up to 150km/h, has narrowly avoided prison. Photo / Supplied
A man who hit a parked car outside Pak’nSave in Richmond, near Nelson, and then drove off at speeds of up to 150km/h, has narrowly avoided prison. Photo / Supplied

Wallace had earlier admitted charges of driving with excess breath alcohol on a third or subsequent occasion, driving contrary to a zero alcohol licence, failing to stop for police and careless driving.

On March 6 this year Wallace was driving his ute outside a Richmond supermarket when he hit and damaged a parked car. He was seen getting out of his vehicle, throwing his arms in the air and then “ranting and raving” at staff inside the supermarket.

He was then seen throwing his groceries into the ute before driving off, at which point police were notified. They caught up with him a few minutes later, and activated their lights and sirens, at which point Wallace sped off. Police abandoned the pursuit, but estimated he had been driving at speeds of up to 150km/h as he accelerated away.

The police found Wallace’s ute parked at a nearby campsite where he was living. He was arrested and an evidential breath test showed he’d been driving with 942 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath. Police also discovered he’d been driving on a zero-alcohol licence.

Defence lawyer Mark Dollimore said while there were aggravating features of Wallace’s offending, and while he acknowledged his history of drink-driving, they had occurred at intervals some years apart. He said Wallace had also only now started to open up about what had been taxing him.

Judge Rielly said despite everything, including that Wallace had undertaken to pay for the damage to the vehicle he hit in the car park, and that he had “done everything right” since the offending,- including taking up counselling, his driving behaviour was “extremely concerning”.

She said had he not demonstrated an insight into the seriousness of the offending, the outcome would have been prison.

Wallace’s four-month community detention sentence included a night-time curfew. He was also sentenced to 100 hours of community work, nine months supervision and placed back on an alcohol interlock order, which includes a 28-day disqualification from driving prior to applying for the interlock licence.

After 12 months Wallace would be on a zero alcohol licence for three years. He was convicted and discharged on the careless driving charge.

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