‘Not the smartest action’ – Bowen man’s $45,000 fine debt
A Bowen farm worker has been slapped with a hefty fine after he dodged a roadside breath test while driving unlicensed, then lied to police that his car had been stolen.
Lionel Wayne Stretton accelerated heavily and crossed onto the wrong side of the road in an attempt to evade police after he "overtly" turned off Herbert Street into a side street to avoid a breath test site just before 8pm on March 17.
Bowen Magistrates Court heard this week a police vehicle had its lights and sirens activated as it pursued Stretton's white Holden Commodore wagon along Queens Road, but Stretton failed to stop.
The following morning, he attended Bowen police station to report that the Commodore had been stolen by his cousin, only to then drive away from the station in that very vehicle, in view of police.
When a check revealed Stretton had never held a driving licence, police promptly attended his home to charge him with two counts of unlicensed driving (repeat offender) and one count of evasion.
He admitted to the evasion offence, offering the excuse that he thought he had a warrant out for his arrest and feared the consequences of getting caught, based on his previous experiences in custody.
He also admitted his car had never been stolen and his report at the police station had been completely fabricated.
"It was not the smartest action to take, but it is what it is; he's done what he's done," solicitor Cleo Rewald told the court.
"He was scared; he's been through the system before."
The court heard Stretton had "underlying PTSD and mood conditions," an extensive history of traffic offences, and a $36,500 State Penalties Enforcement Registry debt he had been paying off in small increments.
When Magistrate Ron Muirhead questioned why the 32-year-old had never held a licence, Stretton said he had difficulties getting a copy of his birth certificate from his hometown of Darwin.
Mr Muirhead said Stretton's case was on the "borderline" of a prison sentence, but elected to instead impose fines totalling $8500.
Stretton will have to wait two years before he is allowed to apply for a driver's licence.
A further nine months disqualification is possible, under the sentence imposed on Tuesday, however Mr Muirhead said it would be up to the Department of Transport to exercise discretion on this matter.
Originally published as 'Not the smartest action' - Bowen man's $45,000 fine debt