SES volunteer blows .243, escapes jail time

JUST a few weeks shy of his 60th birthday Mark Anthony Orr has narrowly escaped going to jail after he was found asleep in his car on the side of the Pacific Highway with a .243 concentration of alcohol in his blood.

The court heard police found the Brushgrove SES volunteer of 30 years asleep in his LandCruiser on the south side of the St Helena tunnel.

On December 14 police received a number of phone calls from people alarmed at a four-wheel drive car swerving all over the road as it travelled south on the highway.

When police questioned him he gave a false identity and denied he had been driving the car, but they were able to use CCTV from the tunnel camera to determine Orr was behind the wheel shortly before he was found asleep.

His solicitor, Anne Aleece Johnston, said her client had a number of health and mental health issues, but had failed to take medication when he visited his son in Maroochydore, Queensland.

The police facts revealed Orr drank a bottle of rum and coke before setting out to return home.

Google maps reveals Orr travelled about 260km over three hours before he pulling off the road.

She said he pulled off the road after going through the tunnel, because he didn't "feel well".

Ms Johnston told the court this was her client's first offence of this nature, but Magistrate Kathy Crittenden corrected the record when she revealed Orr had three drink-driving convictions from the 1980s on his driving record.

"There has been a long interval with no offending of this kind on his record," she said. "I can understand why Ms Johnston could not find these offences on his criminal record, but they're on his driving record."

Ms Johnston said because of his experience with the SES, Orr was embarrassed by the actions that brought him into court.

"Because of his role with the SES, which included rescuing people in difficulties, he feels these actions are not a reflection of his character," she said.

She also said as the carer and supervisor for his mother at an isolated community like Brushgrove, he needed access to a licence and should not go to jail.

Ms Crittenden agreed Orr deserve credit for his community service, his guilty plea and acknowledged his chronic medical issues were genuine.

"But I have to take into account the safety of the public," she said. "You were driving with a blood-alcohol level of .243 on the Pacific Highway and a number of people were so worried about your driving they called police."

She said this and other aggravating factors crossed the threshold into where a prison sentence was mandatory.

But Ms Crittenden said it could be served at home under an intensive corrections order of nine months with conditions that he submit to supervision by Grafton Community Corrections and undertake any mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs it recommended.