Magistrate dumbfounded as Bendigo drink drivers face court

A BENDIGO magistrate was left dumbfounded after a series of women appeared before the court on Monday for high reading drink driving offences, all recorded in the space of a few days in November.

Shannon Lee McNamara, 34, was caught drink driving at more than five times the limit after she hit a pole in Quarry Hill on November 19.

She was one of four women to plead guilty to drink driving-related charges in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Monday, none of which had been in trouble with the courts before.

The court heard McNamara was drinking Bourbon throughout the evening with her partner and friends when an argument started. She claimed it was the first time she had been out drinking in four years.

She went home and got behind the wheel of her car, driving along Rodney Street and turning into Havlin Street about 1.30am.

McNamara failed to negotiate the corner and collided with a pole, which fell on top of her car.

Police attended and McNamara recorded a reading of 0.251 – five times the limit.

She told police she had nothing to say, except that there was “stupidity” on her part. McNamara said she accidentally pushed down on the accelerator too hard as she went around the corner.

She did not remember much about the incident, except getting out of the car and screaming afterwards.

“I’m glad I didn’t make it any further and hurt anyone else,” McNamara told the court.

Magistrate Patrick Southey said it was an “alarmingly high” reading.

“This is one of the highest readings I think I’ve ever heard,” he said.

McNamara was convicted and fined $800. Her licence was cancelled and she was disqualified from driving for two years.

A woman in her 40s was also caught drink driving in late November in Bendigo, this time recording a reading of 0.216.

The woman admitted she was an alcoholic and had struggled to cope after a marriage breakdown. She has since sought alcohol counselling.

Mr Southey said it was pleasing that had started to take the issue seriously.

The woman avoided conviction and was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond, and ordered to pay $400 to the court fund. She was disqualified from driving for 21 months.

A third Bendigo woman, in her 50s, was caught drink driving at a mobile breath testing unit on Don Street at 9.30pm on November 18.

She gave a reading of 0.124 after drinking wine throughout the afternoon and evening, and did not think she would be over the limit.

The woman avoided conviction and was ordered to pay $400 to the court fund. She was disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Natalie Atkins, 32, was convicted and fined $500 after she gave a reading of 0.169 in White Hills on November 8.

She was disqualified from driving for 16 months.

Mr Southey said it was “uncanny” that so many women had been caught drink driving over a short period in Bendigo.

“Today we’ve had four women… all charged with high level drink driving offences from November last year,” he said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it.”

An Eaglehawk man also pleaded guilty on Monday to drink driving.

The man gave a reading of 0.209 after hitting a fence and tree on Averys Road late at night on June 26.

He was fined $800.