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Drunk driver caught after AA meeting

Terrence McEachern
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - A Yellowknife woman who left an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting only to get in her vehicle and drink wine until she passed out, was visibly distraught as she asked to be spared from jail during her Dec. 3 sentencing hearing in territorial court.

After pleading guilty to two alcohol-related offences and apologizing to the court and the "citizens of Yellowknife," Catherine Janet Fairbairn, 55, asked for a conditional discharge so she could keep her job and continue treatment for her long battle with alcohol addiction.

"I will never be here again, never," she said.

Crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson said he appreciated her sincerity, but noted she has attempted treatment programs numerous times before with a history of relapsing.

"Even with the best treatment, she was unable to stay away from alcohol, and not only that, stay away from drinking and driving," said MacPherson, who recommended a driving prohibition of eight to 10 years and a jail term of eight to 10 months. Opposed to a conditional sentence, MacPherson added that Fairbairn could take counselling programs in jail and continue any other programs once she's released from jail.

Judge Christine Gagnon reserved her sentence until Jan. 10, 2011.

Fairbairn pleaded guilty to a 2009 charge of impaired driving and guilty to a May 11 charge of being in care and control of a vehicle while intoxicated.

The first incident occurred on June 26, 2009. At 8:30 a.m., Fairbairn was driving north on Franklin Avenue when she slammed into the back of another vehicle stopped at the Gitzel Street intersection traffic light. Rather than pull over and exchange information, Fairbairn continued driving down Franklin. She was stopped by police at the Northern Heritage Centre, and was arrested on the suspicion of impaired driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

At the detachment, she refused a breathalyzer test and told the RCMP she "had no idea" if she had been in an accident. MacPherson added the Crown is seeking $656 in restitution for damage to the other car.

Then on May 11, 2010, after leaving an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Fairbairn sat in her car and drank red wine from a container. When the RCMP arrived, they found Fairbairn sitting in the driver's seat, slumped over and passed out, with the grey Ford Explorer's keys lying in the console between the driver and passenger's seat.

After knocking on the vehicle's window several times, Fairbairn finally woke up. Rather than open the door, MacPherson said Fairbairn fumbled with the keys and tried to start the vehicle several times before finally giving up and exiting it. The officers noticed she was unsteady on her feet and her eyes were red and glossy. Fairbairn was arrested on the suspicion of being intoxicated and in care and control of a vehicle. Back at the detachment, she agreed to the breathalyzer test and registered 230 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, which is almost three times the legal limit.

MacPherson told the court Fairbairn already has two previous impaired driving convictions and a conviction for driving while disqualified.

Fairbairn, originally from Edmonton, told the court she started abusing alcohol after moving to Yellowknife in 1997.

Defence lawyer Rod Gregory said in recent months his client has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three times a week and has plans to continue treatment at a facility in Alberta.

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