Former Taranaki winemaker with liver damage avoids drunk driving conviction

Richard Laird, who had a job as a winemaker that involved tasting produce, now has severe liver damage. Photo / 123RF

A winemaking job that involved tasting the product resulted in severe liver damage and a court appearance for a man.

Richard Laird failed a breath test during a routine stop, blowing 827 micrograms of alcohol per liter of breath on July 16 last year. The legal alcohol limit is 250 mcg.

The result baffled the Taranaki man who told police he had quit drinking about five hours earlier and thought he could drive.

Laird appeared in New Plymouth District Court this week for a request for release without conviction to be heard on the charge of admitted driving with excess alcohol on the breath.

It is understood that the driving incident preceded Laird’s discovery that he had severe liver damage and a medical condition that negatively impacts the liver’s ability to process alcohol.

An affidavit from Laird’s doctor was provided which confirmed both the condition and that his ability to process alcohol had diminished.

He previously worked in the wine industry as a winemaker and the work involved and encouraged the consumption of wine tasting, Community Magistrate Lesley Jensen told the court.

Attorney Steve Rollo pleaded for his client to be released without conviction.

Police did not oppose the request, but argued that if granted, an alcohol interlock order should be imposed to aid in rehabilitation and as a protective measure.

Since the driving incident, Laird has also been diagnosed with alcohol addiction.

Referring to defense submissions, Jensen said a conviction would negatively impact Laird’s future employment prospects and his ability to secure employment as a computer cybersecurity consultant.

Many government agencies have required a clean file for this type of work due to the sensitive nature of the information being handled and the level of trust required to perform the work, the defense said.

In addition to the evidence provided, Jensen considered that Laird had taken many positive steps to rehabilitate and had no previous convictions.

She ruled that a conviction would be out of proportion to the seriousness of the offense and granted the request.

A foreclosure license was imposed for one year, which would limit Laird to only driving vehicles equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock.

“Good luck with your recovery, you’ve made some amazing strides so far and you have really good support around you so I’m sure we won’t see you in court again,” Jensen told Laird, as he was wiping himself. tears hearing the result.

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