Judge slams reckless driving charges, frees men

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene 23 October 2018, 12:00AM

A District Court Judge yesterday described two motorists’ screeching of their vehicle tyres out of respect for a boy who died in a car crash as a “beautiful tribute”.

Orlando Keil and Scott Levi were charged by the police with reckless driving, with the former also facing a charge of driving an unregistered vehicle.

This followed their actions on July 31 this year, when they drove their vehicles on to Tuanaimato road and Vaea Street, and screeched their tyres thereby making it dangerous to the public. The defendants were allegedly part of a funeral procession.

But Judge Alalatoa Rosella Viane Papalii questioned the rationale behind the reckless driving charges, which the police laid against Orlando Keil and Scott Levi, when they appeared before her yesterday with their lawyer Charlie Vaai. 

The prosecution has argued that the actions of the two defendants were dangerous as they had no regard for the nature, condition and use of the road and for Scott, his vehicle tyres created smoke. The prosecution had also submitted to the Court that residents at Tuanaimato lodged complaints against both defendants.

However, Judge Alalatoa told the two defendants that she struggled to understand how their actions amounted to reckless driving when it was a “beautiful tribute” to a car racer. 

“I myself thought it was a beautiful tribute for a car racer child really who passed away suddenly in rather tragic circumstances I did not see anything wrong with it. 

“But it’s obvious other people don’t agree with my view. But police saw it fit that charges of reckless driving, and again I come back to the point that I had raised before about what was it about your driving Scott at Tuanaimato. And you Orlando at the Vaea street that was reckless alone to attract the criminal law in circumstances,” she said.

The actions of the defendants could have been prosecuted under Section 69 of the Crime’s Act, added Judge Alalatoa, and be categorised disorderly conduct. 

“But as supposed to reckless driving because as I said before, regardless of where I look I failed to see how your driving could have amounted to reckless driving as stated, even to the point that in my respectful view should have never attracted any criminal charges from the start.”

The defendants’ lawyer Charlie Vaai had earlier submitted to the Court that his clients volunteered to showcase their classic vehicles on July 31 for a funeral procession for one of their member’s son, who died from a car accident.

The screeching of the vehicle tyres were done in a controlled funeral procession and the defendants conceded that they screeched their tyres. Both men have pleaded guilty to the offence. 

Judge Alalatoa said she noted that their actions were done in a controlled environment as a tribute to their friend’s son, whose father was a member of the V8 Club, and that the defendants’ vehicles were not the only ones screeching their tyres and creating noise.

“And I think it’s time we correct this common mistake that seems to be popping up quite frequently in charges brought against accused for screeching tires,” she said.

Taking into consideration all these factors, Judge Alalatoa subsequently ruled that the two defendants are discharged without convictions.

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene 23 October 2018, 12:00AM

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