15 Dec 2010

Taxi driver avoids conviction injuring restaurant patron

8:34 pm on 15 December 2010

A taxi driver who crashed through the front window of a McDonald's restaurant in Wellington, injuring a customer, has avoided conviction.

However, the man has been ordered to pay $500 compensation to the victim over the incident in May this year.

Getachew Getahun, 59, earlier pleaded guilty in the Wellington District Court to a charge of careless driving causing injury.

The court heard when Mr Getahun's foot slipped on the accelerator, his car crashed through the glass into a customer, who suffered quite serious leg injuries.

His lawyer sought a discharge without conviction, saying footage of the incident was widely broadcast and, together with other media reporting, had a negative impact on his client.

Judge Tom Broadmore said Mr Getahun had been the subject of constant, if not merciless, media attention and took that into account in allowing the discharge without conviction.

The judge did not disqualify him from driving.

Wellington media law specialist Steven Price says it is rare for a judge to consider in sentencing the effect media coverage has had on a defendant.

Mr Price knows of two other cases where media coverage influenced sentencing, but says he is not sure that a sentencing hearing is the right place for such considerations.

People who feel they have been unfairly portrayed in the media have the option of taking a complaint to the Press Council, he says.