Arresting officer fulfilled obligation to give prisoner his rights, High Court judge rules

    The Auckland High Court has rejected an appeal against a sentence rising from a drunk driving charge.

    Following a Judge alone trial in the District Court at Manukau, Sefita Tonga was convicted of driving with excess breath alcohol  and careless driving  relating to an incident that occurred on 5 November 2017.

    Tonga was fined $900 on the charge of driving with excess blood alcohol and a six-month disqualification from driving.   He was convicted and discharged on the charge of careless driving.

    Tonga appealed against his conviction on the charge of driving with excess breath alcohol and against the sentence imposed.

    His appeal was based on whether the District Court Judge should have excluded the breath specimen evidence.  His counsel argued that the evidence was improperly obtained because Tonga did not fully understand the nature of his right to counsel and that the police did not make it easy for him to exercise that right.

    The court was told that the arresting officer, Constable Poi, offered Tonga a list of lawyers to contact, but that he declined. Evidence was also given that Tonga had indicated that he wanted to a Tongan speaking lawyer.

    However, Constable Poi told him this might not be possible and ultimately Tonga indicated that he did not want legal representation.

    “Notwithstanding his earlier indication that he wanted to speak with  a lawyer it was Mr Tonga who ultimately told Constable Poi not to “worry about it”, and thereafter repeatedly confirmed that he did not wish to consult with a lawyer,” Judge Powell said.

    “In those circumstances Constable Poi had discharged his obligation to facilitate counsel for Mr Tonga.”

    The appeal against the conviction and sentence were dismissed.

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