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Nurse's job more important than ban, judge rules

A nurse who admitted careless driving causing injury to one of her colleagues during an out-of-town trip last year has been discharged without conviction.

Gersila Zolio Bismonte, 28, originally from the Philippines, appeared for sentence by Judge Charles Blackie in Gisborne District Court.

The judge said he was willing to grant the reprieve mainly on the grounds that the mandatory driver disqualification attached to a conviction would seriously impede Bismonte’s ability to meet her employment obligations. However, there had to be some penalty for what occurred.

He accepted counsel Nicola Wright’s suggestion Bismonte make a donation to St John — staff of which had attended the crash scene.

The judge ordered Bismonte to pay $500 and provide proof of that payment to the court.

Bismonte was driving two passengers in convoy with friends in other vehicles on State Highway 30 south of Te Kuiti when the crash happened on August 20 last year. The group was intending to visit Waitomo Caves.

Traffic flow was light but it was raining. Bismonte failed to drive to the conditions and lost control of her vehicle on a signposted bend.

The vehicle crossed the centre line and plunged 20 metres down a bank, landing upside down in a swollen stream. Bismonte and her passengers were trapped inside the car, which started to take on water.

Other motorists stopped and managed to get them free but one of the passengers suffered hypothermia due to water inhalation and required hospital treatment.

Judge Blackie said the charge technically carried maximum penalties of a term of imprisonment or a fine of up to $4500. Those penalties were accompanied by mandatory disqualification.

But he accepted Mrs Wright submissions a discharge without conviction was appropriate in the circumstances.

The crash was caused by momentary inadvertence. Bismonte’s culpability was low. She had no prior convictions, Mrs Wright said.

Bismonte was employed in Gisborne as a nurse in a responsible position and was required to be there on call and at unusual hours. She needed to be able to drive.

Judge Blackie said a driving ban would not only disadvantage Bismonte but her employer, patients and the community generally.

The judge also noted statements in support of Bismonte, including from her two passengers during the incident.

Police were neutral on the application.