Tamworth Local Court: Lawyer argues farmer who ran red light driven to drink by the drought

DRINK-DRIVER: Farmer who pleaded guilty to drink-driving given Conditional Release Order and no conviction. Photo: File
DRINK-DRIVER: Farmer who pleaded guilty to drink-driving given Conditional Release Order and no conviction. Photo: File

A FARMER who said the drought drove him to drink has been let off without a conviction for mid-range drink-driving.

Shaun Charles Colwell, 30, attracted the attention of police when he ran a red light at the intersection of Ebsworth and Bridge Streets at about midday on March 10.

It was the fifth generation farmer's first offence and on the lower scale of objective seriousness, defence solicitor Richard O'Halloran said.

"These are compelling subjective circumstances, he has been forced to leave his farm with no water, no income and no cattle to take up employment in Narrabri," he said.

"Unable to pursue farming he resorted to drinking alcohol daily and nightly as a coping mechanism and he needs some assistance."

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The Walgett man was stopped by police on Kable Avenue and given a roadside breath test, analysis returned a reading of 0.084, police evidence showed.

Colwell told police he had drunk a large amount of alcohol the night before and estimated he had at least six schooners of beer and a large quantity of rum and coke between 8pm and 2am.

His licence was suspended by police on the spot on March 10, but Mr O'Halloran argued a complete loss of licence would be detrimental.

"He's isolated, he has no means of transport, a loss of licence means his new employment will fall over," he said.

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"He is getting assistance, he is praying for rain and hoping to turn his life around.

"This is an aberration, he has been off the road for two months and this is his first offence."

Two character references were tendered in court on Monday along with a Traffic Offenders Program certificate of completion and psychological reports.

The zero tolerance regime will see drivers who do the wrong thing slapped with a $561 fine and three month licence suspension on the spot.

The news laws were brought up by magistrate Julie Soars in court on Monday, who said Colwell would not make for a good example to deter the general community.

"I live in this community and accept that these are hard times sir, but you would be aware from doing that course that you put others at risk on the day in question," she said.

"I'm the coroner for the region and I see what happens when things go terribly wrong."

Colwell was released without conviction on a Conditional Release Order for 14 months, he must comply with an alcohol treatment plan and have zero alcohol in his blood while driving.