Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A WA first: Passenger loses licence for allowing mate's to drive drunk

IN a WA first, a 22-year-old has lost his licence after he allowed a friend to drive his car drunk - a scenario that ended in a fatality.
A man who let his drunk friend drive his car, that crashed and killed a Perth teenager, has lost his licence in a WA first.
Richard Ronald David Burling had his licence suspended for seven months and was fined $550 after being found guilty of driving or attempting to drive with a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.08.

Detective Senior Constable Ben Lucas, who led the investigation into the Ballajura crash that killed Luke Beyer, 17, on May 27 last year, said Burling had been convicted based on the fact he knew Cory Nepia-Keelan was over the limit and still gave him the keys to drive them home.
Nepia-Keelan, who was behind the wheel of Burling's car when it ploughed into the teenager, has already been jailed for dangerous driving causing death. 
Det Snr Const Lucas said Burling and Nepia-Keelan discussed who was least intoxicated to drive and decided it was Nepia-Keelan, despite him being a learner driver who had consumed about 12 Corona beers in the four hours prior.
 “Burling was aware that Nepia-Keelan was intoxicated or impaired by alcohol. He also knew that Nepia-Keelan only had a learner's permit,” Det Snr Const Lucas said.

“He’s then provided him the car keys to drive home knowing that he was intoxicated after having that conversation, knowing that he’s going to use those car keys to drive and commit an offence.”

Det Snr Const Lucas said usually only the driver of the car could be convicted but if it is found that someone aided or enabled the vehicle to be driven then they could face the same charges as the actual offender.

He said he looked to case law in NSW which had set a precedent to mount the case, and sought advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Luke’s mother, Colleen Beyer said she hoped the successful prosecution of Burling would send the message that getting in the car with a friend who had been drinking was effectively becoming an accomplice to their crime.

“We hope that this precedent makes drink-driving even more socially unacceptable,” she said.

“That people realise that now, it is possible for passengers of a drunk driver to face charges in relation to the driver’s wrong doing.

“If a mate is drunk and is going to drive, take the keys away, be the true friend and save them from potentially taking someone’s life, even their own.

“Don't support their decision to drink drive by becoming a passenger.”

Good mate Tom Davies, who founded Enough is Enough - a local road safety initiative – after Luke’s tragic death said successful prosecution of the passenger would hopefully make others think twice before letting a friend get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.

“It's good to finally see action being brought against those who have also played a role in serious offences,” he said.

“This hits the problem right at the heart.

“As soon as you have the passengers on board, we have a real chance of reducing the road toll, and the level of drink driving.”

Nepia-Keelan was sentenced to four years jail in February this year and will serve a minimum of two years before he is eligible for parole.

(*From Perth Now 18 April 2012)

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