Courts powerless to stop a man from drinking himself to death

Isn’t it amazing that we can force people to wear a cycle helmet, but we can’t stop them from drinking themselves to an early grave, during which time they risk the lives and well-being of others?

A man whose alcohol addiction had “overwhelmed him” since the death of his wife about 20 years ago, fell asleep drunk in the back of the Greymouth District Court last week when he appeared for sentence on his fourth drink-driving charge and a drugs charge.

Wayne Grant Schmetz, 56, was eventually jailed for 10 months.

Schmetz had originally been due to be sentenced on Thursday. However, after he had to be revived, having fallen asleep at the back of the courtroom, he was remanded in custody for the night as he was too intoxicated to be sentenced.

On Friday morning, having had a chance to “sleep things off” during a night in the cells, Schemtz was sent to prison.

Earlier this year his sentencing was adjourned in order for him to be given a final chance to have an address assessed by Community Probation to see if it was suitable for a community-based sentence.

How many chances does one get?

However, the court was told by Community Probation that despite the address being suitable, it was not fit for habitation.

“I have seen dog kennels in better shape, it’s not suitable,” a probation officer said.

Community Probation also said they did not feel that Schmetz would comply with any community-based sentence.

Lawyer Marcus Zintl said that just like another defendant sentenced in the Greymouth court earlier last week, Schmetz was “drinking himself into early grave”, especially given that he was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.

Mr Zintl said his alcoholism had “overwhelmed him since his wife died in the 1990s”.

Her death had “tipped him over the edge”.

Mr Zintl said it was a “rather sad case” where Schmetz had tried to “blanket the pain with alcohol”.

That pain will be gone soon enough when he kills himself by his own hand, one drink at a time.

Some people are a danger to themselves, and that is fine, but when they get behind a wheel then they are a danger to others. Prison is a good place for him to be; it might get him dried out.


– NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.