Judge thinks insurers deserve a break

A Christchurch judge wants the police to rethink their policy so that insurance companies can have a break from the cost of offending.

Judge Tony Couch wants his views considered by the police at national level.

“I have noted this with several prosecutors, and asked them to follow it up,” he said at a Christchurch District Court sentencing of a man on driving charges.

Christopher Michael Sanders, 29, was before the court after admitting charges of drink-driving, driving while disqualified, and careless driving.

He asked prosecutor Aja Trinder for the amount of reparation being sought and she told him it was $500 – the cost of the insurance excess paid by the owner of a parked car rammed by Sanders.

But Judge Couch said he wanted to know the total value of the damage caused, and that only asking for reparation for the insurance excess was not acceptable.

“I find this policy inappropriate. It means the court is not aware of the extent of the damage this man has caused by his offending.”

If no reparation order was made by the court for the full amount, the insurance company was left to pay for the damage. “This results in increased insurance premiums for all members of the community.”

He then asked the prosecutor to take the issue up. He told her: “It is going to have to be raised at a much higher level, at police national headquarters, because it does seem to be a national policy,” he said.

Defence counsel Tom Stevens then checked with Sanders as he stood in the dock, and found that in this case, reparations arrangements had been made without the court’s intervention. Sanders had met with the insurance company and was gradually paying off the $6000 damage bill directly to them.

Judge Couch said he could take that into account as he sentenced Sanders, who has 10 previous convictions for driving while disqualified or while his licence was suspended.

He also has two convictions in 2013 for reckless driving, and he was disqualified from driving for six months on June 29, 2017, for drink-driving. Two months later, on August 27, he was driving on Marshland Road, near Christchurch, when he veered to the side and collided with a parked car.

He was found to have 644mcg of alcohol to a litre of breath. The legal limit is 250mcg.

Judge Couch said he was concerned that this drink-driving incident was only three months after he was caught the first time for that offence.

Mr Stevens told the court that Sanders said he had not had a drink since the accident and would not be touching alcohol again.

Judge Couch said it had been a serious crash which had shunted the parked car 6m along the road.

He said he only considered a home detention sentence in place of imprisonment because of the positive pre-sentence report from probation and the long gap of nine years since Sanders’ last disqualified driving offence.

He granted a six-month home detention sentence at an address in Hornby, with six months on special release conditions to follow the sentence, and disqualified him from driving for 15 months. When Sanders gets his licence back he will have to abide by the terms of a zero-alcohol licence.

Judge Couch ordered the $500 reparations for the parked car owner’s insurance excess.

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