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Community service for "fleeing" drink driver

Community service for

Saturday 24 February 2018

Community service for "fleeing" drink driver

A driver has been sentenced to 140 hours of community service, and banned from driving for 20 months following a collision, leaving the scene of the accident and for being over the drink drive limit.

Jason Austen crashed into the back of a stationary vehicle, which was indicating to turn right, whilst driving along the Couture on Christmas Eve 2017.

Following the accident witnesses went to assist the people in the two vehicles concerned, but it became apparent that Austen intended to leave the scene and was reversing away from the car he had crashed into. One bystander said he waved his hands at Austen and yelled at him to stop, but then described having to dart to the left to avoid Austen's vehicle as he accelerated away from the scene. 

A further two people gave chase, following Austen as he fled the scene. During the chase Austen admitted speeding and following eye witness accounts and his admissions it is estimated that the maximum speed attained was 50 miles per hour. As the police had been contacted via the chasing group Austen was finally apprehended at Ruette de la Tour, when he was taken into custody.

Austen immediately showed remorse and complied with authorities providing a breath sample which identified a minimum reading of 46 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of his breath. The legal limit is 35.

shutterstock drink driving breath test

Pictured: File image of a breath test

In his defence, Advocate Roffey stated that Austen admitted the incident and knew both the drink driving and failing to stop was irresponsible, but he had panicked. He said that he had seen the man waving but had never intended to cause harm. Advocate Roffey went on to explain that Austen had been emotionally affected by the incident and shown remorse from the moment he was arrested. 

It was further explained that Austen had a history of anxiety for which he was now receiving treatment, and whilst he was aware of his wrong doing and didn't wish to get away with it, he had already paid a high price in terms of his health, having been signed off sick since the incident. He had also lost his job and accommodation.

His defence advocate stated that Austen had been quite prepared for a custodial sentence given the severity of the offence, but his lawyer asked the judge to take his probation report and previous good record into account as mitigation when sentencing.

In returning a verdict Judge McKerrell said that he would give Austen full credit for his guilty plea and his previous good character, but an incident as serious as this could easily have resulted in a custodial sentence, however this was not the course he would take.

Judge McKerrell said he would take into account the probation report and Austen's genuine remorse as he was confident he was unlikely to come before the court again and that this was an "epic error" that did not represent the person he was.

He continued to tell Austen he was foolish in the extreme and issued him with 140 hours of community service and a 20 month driving ban.

Judge McKerrell asked Advocate Calderwood to pass on praise to those public spirited individuals who had helped out during the incident; both the man who tried to stop Austen and the two who 'gave chase'. He said individuals like this who show public spirit must be recognised by the court.

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