Time fits the crime

A YOUNG man appeared in Grafton Local Court earlier this month charged with riding a motorbike under the influence - a blood alcohol content of 0.267 to be exact.

He was not wearing a helmet and crashed the unregistered 125cc bike on the bitumen in Kelly St, South Grafton, and when police arrived on the scene the man had cuts and bruises all over him.

He had never held a licence and had been convicted of a mid-range drink-driving offence only three months prior to this offence.

The drunk and injured man was taken to Grafton Base Hospital, where he became abusive to hospital staff and police.

What complicates this story is that the man suffered a brain injury in a car crash in May 2009 and has never been the same.

Doctors provided evidence to the court that the injury affects the man's memory, impairs his attention span and reduces his cognitive ability.

The man was the first case to be dealt with in Grafton Local Court under the new forum sentencing program. Before his recent court appearance, a forum of nine people sat down and discussed the offence and its effect on the community.

They included the police officer who dealt with the case, a Grafton Base Hospital staff member, a member of Grafton Fire Brigade, the brother and grandfather of the offender and the offender himself.

The fire officer spoke about how he could be affected by drink-drivers because of the mental trauma caused by scraping victims' bodies from the road. Hospital staff said abuse was the last thing they needed when they were trying to do their job.

The forum formulated a plan for the man to do several things to right his wrong, including apologising to police and staff he abused; drug and alcohol counselling; and a course with a local employment service where he could learn some bicycle repairing skills.

If adopted by the court, failure to adhere to this plan would result in a breach of a good behaviour bond and a return to court for a presumably more severe sentence.

In this case, visiting Magistrate Ian Cheetham used his discretionary powers and chose not to enforce the recommendations of the forum.

The man, who was not identified because of the personal history, will serve a 100-hour community service order, was disqualified from driving for two years and was placed on a two-year good behaviour bond.

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