17 Jan 2017

The Chills singer sentenced for drink-driving

2:44 pm on 17 January 2017

A judge has urged the founder of iconic Dunedin band The Chills to get his battle with alcohol addiction under control before it seriously affects his life.

Martin Phillipps

The Chills singer Martin Phillipps - pictured in RNZ's studio in Wellington last year Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King

Martin Phillipps, 53, was sentenced on a drink-driving charge in the Dunedin District Court today after earlier pleading guilty to one charge of being twice the legal breath alcohol limit.

Phillipps has fronted The Chills for more than three decades, and the band was considered one of the main definers of the 'Dunedin Sound'.

He has spoken publicly in the past of his fight to stay sober.

Martin Phillipps in court

Martin Phillipps in court today Photo: RNZ / Lydia Anderson

In October last year, Phillipps was struggling with bad news about his mother's health and opened a bottle of whiskey in the early hours of the morning, before getting in his car and driving to get food.

He was stopped by police and blew a reading of 845mcg - more than twice the legal limit.

Phillipps was due to be sentenced in November, however a judge postponed his appearance to give him time to prove he had quit drinking.

His lawyer, Jo Turner, told the court he had remained abstinent, and blood tests had been taken to show he had no alcohol in his system.

She said Phillipps was struggling with serious ill-health, which would make community work difficult to carry out.

Judge Kevin Phillips noted the musician's previous conviction for drink-driving in 2010, saying that "for a man of your intelligence and abilities, I would have thought that would have been a lesson for your life".

He acknowledged Phillipps had experienced alcohol-related health issues including cirrhosis and alcohol dependence.

"I feel sympathy for you as you grapple with those matters," he said.

"You need to get that under control before it really, really impacts upon you."

The judge disqualified Phillipps from driving for nine months, and ordered him to pay a $1200 fine.

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