30 years on the run, but law didn't forget this driver
IT WAS early morning more than 30 years ago when a very drunk Warrack John Nieass crashed head-on into a taxi being driven normally in Sheridan St, Cairns.
A blood test showed he had a blood alcohol concentration of .233 per cent.
Yesterday, the law finally caught up with the former Kuranda man, who fronted Gympie Magistrates Court on an ancient dangerous driving charge brought under laws which no longer exist.
Now 73 and living at The Palms, Nieass pleaded guilty to charges arising from the 5.40am crash on July 16, 1988.
It appears Nieass must have been subject to a summons, because an arrest warrant was issued on February 11, 1992.
But it was not until last year that the law finally caught up with him, proving it had a long memory, if not a long enough arm to fetch him back from interstate a generation ago.
Magistrate Chris Callaghan said he accepted that Nieass had not heard about the legal proceedings until October last year. But that did not excuse his second offence, failing to appear in the Gympie court to answer the dangerous driving charge, after being ordered to appear exactly one year ago today.
The court was told Nieass had left the state and spent time in the Northern Territory and Broome in Western Australia, where he had family ties and where he had developed an intense interest in Aboriginal culture.
The court was told Nieass was an enthusiastic supporter of Aboriginal art, especially the work of his indigenous granddaughter.
Nieass's solicitor Chris Anderson told the court that on the due date for his court appearance last year, Nieass had phoned from the Northern Territory, "on his way to Broome to link up with his family.”
"His granddaughter was an Aboriginal artist and had represented her local tribe at an art exhibition in Finland.
"It appears the charge was first preferred some months after the crash.
"Until October 2017 he was unaware of court proceedings against him. He has a recollection of turning right onto a two-lane carriageway after celebrating his birthday the previous day.”
Now a pensioner, he had not engaged in similar behaviour since, Mr Anderson said.
"He has been a contributor to Aboriginal culture and related foundations for the past 40 years,” he said, seeking an order that no conviction be recorded.
"Interesting question,” Mr Callaghan said, asking if courts could apply a non-recorded conviction ruling for an offence committed at a time when it was uncertain if this power existed.
Mr Callaghan adjourned the case during the lunch break so he could research the superceded law, which Nieass had broken. He said he had found the answer on a legal website.
It was also unclear if mandatory minimum licence disqualification periods applied at that time.
He noted previous convictions for traffic and drug matters between 1988 and 1990.
He said the failure to appear last year was serious. "You did ring in but you are not excused by this and a warrant was issued,” Mr Callaghan said.
"The accident was completely your fault,” he said, fining Nieass a total of $800 and disqualifying him from driving for six months.