Clean record ends for 73-year-old Nelson woman caught drink driving

A night out at a social club has resulted in a 73-year-old woman’s first conviction, after she was stopped at a police checkpoint and found well over the limit after three wines.

A 73-year-old drove her husband for an evening at the social club, only a few minutes down the road from home. But three wines later she thought it safe to get back behind the wheel and has now landed her first conviction.

Today, Diane Margaret Penn pleaded guilty in the Nelson District Court to driving with excess breath alcohol.

After the night out on February 10 this year, she was stopped at a police checkpoint and an evidential breath test recorded 763mcg of alcohol per litre of breath. The limit for drivers aged 20 years and over is 250mcg. She told police she’d had three glasses of wine.


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Defence lawyer Dave Holloway said Penn was a retiree who now worked hard as a well-regarded volunteer.

A factor in the high reading was that she hadn’t eaten, which was a “big error of judgment on her part”.

Holloway said Penn’s husband was in the car but hadn’t felt able to drive as he had also been drinking, so she decided to drive both of them home.

Holloway described the incident as a “real shame”, as the consequences of the mandatory roadside suspension of her licence ahead of the court-imposed disqualification had affected her ability to help with her grandchildren, which she did regularly, and also on her work as a volunteer.


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Ministry of Justice figures show that last year, 3 per cent of people charged with driving while under the influence were aged over 65 – just 350 people out of almost 14,000.

In January last year, NZME reported a Taranaki pensioner’s struggle with losing his independence after he landed his first conviction, after 86 years with a blemish-free record.

The over-65s were the least likely to be charged last year, and numbers had dropped 13.5 per cent from a decade ago.

Community magistrate Brigid Corcoran today acknowledged the difficult situation Penn had been in, after thinking she was okay to drive but was well over the limit.

Corcoran factored in Penn’s previously unblemished record and the responsibility she had taken for her actions, including the early guilty plea.

Penn was convicted and fined $500 and disqualified from driving for six months.


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