Booze, beaches and brothers – a deadly concoction when you throw in stupidity and car-surfing

Alf is bothered by the ruling of a judge who has decided against sending an idiot to the slammer.

A judge says a man who killed his younger brother in a drunken car-surfing accident on Mt Maunganui beach would be behind bars if it was “someone else’s kid”.

Instead, Luke McGregor was sentenced yesterday to five months’ home detention after the accident that claimed the life of his brother Jordan.

Alf fears this will signal an open season on brothers, and he is grateful he is on very good terms with his own brother.

In this case, according to what the court was told, 25-year-old McGregor was driving a four-wheel-drive on the beach with Jordan, 23, riding on the bonnet when he hit an 8m-long log.

“The vehicle was thrown into the air, and your brother flew off the bonnet,” Judge Louis Bidois told McGregor during sentencing in Tauranga District Court.

“Sadly, unfortunately, the vehicle landed on top of him. What started out as a harmless bit of fun has ended up in tragedy.”

You can be sure booze was involved.

McGregor, his two brothers and friends had spent the day fishing before going to a beach back in February.

McGregor (the Herald says) squeezed his vehicle between two posts on a pedestrian beach access at Mt Maunganui, then parked on hard sand and the group drank alcohol into the early morning.

About 1am, McGregor took the steering wheel and the group clambered in – except for two young men. One grabbed on to the back of the vehicle and Jordan lay on the bonnet, clutching the windscreen wipers.

Luke McGregor was over the breath-alcohol limit, at 446 micrograms. The limit is 400.

He turned on the headlamps and took the four-wheel-drive down the beach at 70km/h. He did not see the log until it was too late.

It has been estimated the vehicle flew 10m before hitting Jordan.

Sentencing McGregor for dangerous driving causing death, the judge said the court had to send a strong message against drink-driving and dangerous driving, and the typical sentence would be 18 months to two years in jail, although Alf observes that a jail term of that paltry length is the stuff of extreme leniency.

Paltry though it be, the judge reduced it because of mitigating factors including McGregor’s guilty plea, remorse and the fact that it was his own brother who was killed.

“That relationship and that closeness means it can open the door to home detention. If it had been anyone else, there would be calls for blood.

“The reality is, when there’s dangerous driving, drink-driving and death, unless there’s an extreme, there’s a need of imprisonment. If this was someone else’s kid, he would be going to jail, full stop.”

McGregor also must do 140 hours of community work and was disqualified from driving for 18 months for the drink-driving.

But what are those of us who are running a bit low in the brotherly love department supposed to make of this exemplar?

Will bumping off a sibling result in similar leniency in other cases?

More ominously, Alf thinks he spotted Mrs Grumble weighing up the odds after reading the court report.

He hastened to point out to her that he would never be silly enough to ride along a beach on the bonnet of a four-wheel drive in the early hours of the morning, and especially if she were doing the driving after drinking too much, although drinking too much – let it be known – is something Mrs Grumble does not do.

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