A Southern lawyer who represents defendants in Invercargill and Dunedin District Courts was in the dock himself for sentencing, after injuring three women while driving.
Simon Nicholas Claver appeared before Judge Tony Couch in the Invercargill District Court on Friday, after earlier admitting three charges of careless driving causing injury.
Judge Couch said Claver had been driving south on Deveron St about 7.20pm on July 20, 2016, when he failed to stop at a red traffic light at the intersection of Esk St.
He narrowly avoided a collision with a vehicle travelling through the intersection on a green light, but was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting three women who were crossing the road.
Claver’s lawyer John Fraser said Claver was “very embarrassed to be here today,” that Claver had paid the costs for the victims’ treatment following the accident, and had bought them replacement tickets to Mary Poppins, which they had been on their way to see that night.
Claver had also apologised to the women the following day, Fraser said.
Judge Couch said the weather at the time of the incident had been wet and windy. The three women were taken to hospital after the incident, with one woman receiving bruising down one side of her body, another injuring her knee and needing crutches, and the third receiving bruising and bumps to the head.
Claver’s windscreen was shattered in the incident, the judge said.
Claver had admitted hitting the women, and said he realised too late the light was red and by that time he was halfway through the intersection, Judge Couch said.
The judge said Claver had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, and was to have a trial before a judge in February, but changed his pleas to guilty on the day of the trial.
Fraser had filed submissions saying there were special circumstances in the crash, which included that Claver had mistakenly focused on the next set of traffic lights, which were green, that the victims were dressed in dark clothing, that it was a dark, wet night, and the glare of lights were reflecting off the road and affecting visibility, and that Claver’s windscreen was foggy.
However, Judge Couch found there were no special circumstances.
He said the intersection was a straightforward one, and the red traffic light would have been immediately in front of Claver. If he had focussed on the next set of traffic lights, that was a “significant driver error”, the judge said.
Judge Couch said it appeared there was no evidence Claver’s windscreen was foggy, and if it had been, it would have been prudent for him to have wiped it before driving.
The incident was “the result of inattention or poor judgement on your part. You were careless,” the judge told Claver.
Judge Couch said the injuries received by the victims were not serious, but were not trivial either.
Fraser asked Judge Couch to delay Claver’s disqualification from driving to begin later on Friday, instead of immediately, so that Claver could drive back to Dunedin.
Judge Couch said Claver should know how the court system worked, and that disqualification were usually effective from the time of sentencing because defendants were required to surrender their licences to the court.
“Mr Claver knows perfectly well how this works … it shows a remarkable lack of awareness,” the judge said.
Claver promised to surrender his licence to a court on Saturday.
“I’m going to rely on your position as an officer of the court,” Judge Couch said.
He ordered Claver to pay $800 emotional harm reparation to each of the victims, and disqualified him from driving for six months.
Speaking after the hearing, Claver said he immediately filed an appeal against the disqualification.