While he could have been charged with careless or dangerous driving or wilful damage, he was instead referred to the Iwi Community Panel – an alternative resolution process for low-level offenders.
Following the ICP he says he has learnt from his mistakes and would never attempt it again, and he is receiving counselling for anxiety which he has suffered his entire life.
This is his story:
Anxiety has always plagued me, especially when it comes to public speaking. I get so nervous I feel sick.
Earlier this year I was at school knowing I had to give a presentation later that day. I couldn’t bear the thought. So, I decided to skip a couple of periods, take my mum’s car (which I was allowed to use to get to and from school) and just drive around for a while until it was all over.
I intended to return to school once the presentations were over, but the more I drove the more anxious and distressed I became, and the more overwhelmed I felt about returning to school because of what I had done.
I went to the petrol station to fill up but the pump wasn’t working properly and the petrol spilt all over me. I was flustered and angry but I couldn’t go home and change because my mum would wonder why I wasn’t at school.
It wasn’t long after that my parents started calling my phone constantly and I realized the school must have informed them of my absence.
I felt my situation snowballing and I didn’t know what to do, so I turned my phone off and started driving out of town. I pulled over for an hour or so and I couldn’t stop crying. Especially when I turned my phone on again and noticed tons of messages and missed calls.
I decided it was time to just go home and face the music but something made me stop and I started to cry again. I drove another 5km before I made the split-second decision to ram the car through a paddock fence.
What had I done? I instantly felt panicked and freaked out about what I’d just tried to do. I started driving around looking for a way out but all of the gates were padlocked. To get out I had no choice but to ram another fence.
I don’t know how it happened, but the entire car then flipped into a ditch. I was lucky I received no injuries but I had completely written my mother’s car off.
I had tried to take my own life. I had been so overwhelmed, and I knew I had made a big deal out of nothing. I’d been driving around all day. I was tired, hungry, emotional and on-edge, and overthinking things far too much.
The police contacted my Mum, and later told us there would be consequences for my driving and the damage I had caused. But instead of sending me to court, I was referred to an Iwi Community Panel. This meant I would stay out of the court system and wouldn’t receive a criminal conviction. But I still had to answer to my offending.
At the panel I was asked to talk about what happened on the day and I was also asked to come to Nga Kete and tell my story. I’d already apologised to the farmer – I did so the day after the incident. I tried to pay him some money for the damage but he wouldn’t take it so I sent him a thank you card and a voucher instead.
The panel helped. It was a relief to get it out of my system and it kept me from receiving a criminal conviction which could have had negative impacts on getting a job in the future, or travelling.
I’ve been seeing a councillor for a while to help with my anxiety and soon I will see a psychiatrist who will determine whether I am fit to drive again.
I’m excited to one day work in the film industry, whether it be as a film director, or screenplay writer, or sound producer. I could never have done that with a criminal conviction.
I still think about what happened quite often and I know I’ve learnt from this and I would never do anything like that again.