SILVERCHAIR drummer Ben Gillies was not coping with being separated from his wife Jackie Gillies, who was in South Africa filming a reality TV program, when he had an alcohol relapse and got behind the wheel of a car before crashing into a power pole at Islington, a court has been told.
Gillies, 38, who is best known as a member of the three-piece multi-ARIA award winning Newcastle rock band, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Thursday where he was told by Magistrate Peter Barnett, SC, that he was “very much at peril” of going to jail.
“He is just below the high-range [drink driving level] and has a high degree of moral culpability,” Mr Barnett said.
“He accelerates away from a set of traffic lights, loses control and puts his motor vehicle into a power pole with a passenger in the car.
“And he has a terrible driving record. “For 18 years he has shown a complete disregard for other people’s safety.”
Gillies had pleaded guilty to mid-range drink driving and negligent driving after he “accelerated harshly” around a corner and crashed into a power pole in Maitland Road, Islington about 12.45am on January 21.
He was breath-tested and returned a reading of 0.144, nearly three times the legal limit.
His legal representative, Craig Robinson, said Gillies had struggled with “alcohol problems in the past”, but he had been sober for four years prior to around the time of the crash.
“His wife went to South Africa to film a TV program,” Mr Robinson said of Jackie Gillies’s spot on the latest season of Channel Ten’s I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!
“A condition of the program is that they don’t have any phones so he had no contact with her.
“He wasn’t coping with that separation and that’s when he lapsed and consumed alcohol for a period of about two weeks, before and after the crash.”
Mr Robinson said Gillies now had his drinking “under control” and was remorseful and aware that he could have seriously injured or killed someone.
Mr Robinson submitted to Mr Barnett that the subsequent media coverage that had flowed from Gillies’s arrest and “fall from grace” amounted to extra-curial punishment, essentially additional hardship not imposed by the court.
But Mr Barnett strongly disagreed and said Gillies’s case was not exceptional.
After much argument, Mr Barnett was ultimately persuaded to avoid sending Gillies to jail or sentencing him to a community service order, instead imposing an 18 month good behaviour bond, a $2200 fine and a 12-month disqualification.
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