Australia

Australian court rules against chainsaw drink-driver

  • 17 February 2015
  • From the section Australia
Chainsaw Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Withrow cut himself while using a chainsaw at his residence in February last year

An Australian learner driver who stitched his own chainsaw wound and drank gin for the pain before driving to hospital has lost a Supreme Court appeal against a drink-driving charge.

Timothy Withrow, from Port Willunga near Adelaide, had a blood alcohol reading three times the legal limit.

He was challenging an earlier ruling by a lower court that refused to consider the matter "trifling".

By law traffic offences deemed trifling can result in a lighter punishment.

Withrow sustained a gaping wound to his hand while using a chainsaw at his residence in February last year.

He phoned two emergency departments, but was told that they were very busy and would not be able to treat him for more than 10 hours.

Withrow then used a large sewing needle and some fishing line to sew up the wound and washed it with gin to prevent infection. He also drank gin to help with the pain.

He later decided to drive to the hospital for treatment after not being able to contact his wife. He said he could not afford an ambulance.

'Clear danger'

He was pulled over by police after failing to stop at a sign, and charged with several driving offences as well as being issued an immediate licence disqualification. Though he had previously held a driving licence in the US he did not have a full Australian licence.

In court he had pleaded guilty but before sentencing asked for the matter to be dealt with as trifling.

But Justice Kevin Nicholson agreed with the earlier ruling that Withrow had had options other than driving himself, including calling an ambulance or taxi, or approaching a neighbour for help.

"He posed a clear danger not only to himself but to other road users," Justice Nicholson said, according to local media.

"I admire [his] courage and his tolerance to pain but I do not admire his judgment."

Withrow will be sentenced by a magistrate at a later date.