Former Speaker of the House Sir Kerry Burke has been fined and disqualified after admitting a charge of drink-driving, at the Christchurch District Court.
Sir Kerry, aged 73, admitted driving with a breath-alcohol level of 517mcg of alcohol to a litre of breath.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Glenn Pascoe said he had been found driving his Volkswagen in Christchurch at 4.54pm on November 14.
Alcohol levels above 250mcg draw an infringement notice, and levels above 400mcg mean prosecution at court.
Defence counsel Andy Ogilvie said it was Sir Kerry’s first time before the court.
“He’s had an exemplary public life as a former Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House,” he said. “He is naturally very embarassed and remorseful about the situation he finds himself in.”
There had been nothing remarkable about the driving that had brought police attention.
Mr Ogilvie said: “He had some pressures on him in his personal life which I don’t want to traverse in open court given the interest the Press is likely to show in this matter.”
There was little prospect of Sir Kerry ever appearing before the court again, he said, suggesting that because of the previous life he had led, a modest fine and disqualification should be imposed.
Judge Alistair Garland said that since Parliament had reduced the drink-driving level, the level in this case was more than twice the legal limit. “One has to reassess just how much you can drink before you drive, given that Parliament has changed the rules.”
Because he was aged 73 and had never appeared before the court, he was entitled to have the court take his good record into account. “I accept it was an error of judgment. I accept it is unlikely you will ever do so again,” said Judge Garland.
He imposed a $400 fine and six months’ disqualification from driving – the minimum term.