The Sunday Telegraph's national political editor Samantha Maiden pled guilty to a charge of drink driving, along with two charges of not obeying the directions of police, at the Goulburn Local Court yesterday.
Magistrate Darryl Pearce said Maiden was "on the wrong side of the road, and there was a police pursuit". "You are facing a jail sentence", he said, though he ordered a pre-sentence report to look at alternatives to that.
"This is a very serious matter, make no mistake," he said.
On the morning of Sunday, March 20, Maiden, driving a Hyundai Sante Fe, was pulled over with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.136. This put her in the "mid range" of prescribed concentration of alcohol band. Generally, this comes with a maximum fine of $2200 and a maximum jail time of nine months, with a minimum licence disqualification period of six months.
Were Maiden to go to jail, it'd be a massive blow for the Sunday Tele, which relies on her to bring in exclusive political stories for the country's highest-selling paper, particularly in election years. But it's very unlikely it'll come to that -- she has no prior convictions, and very few mid-range convictions result in custodial sentences.
Police alleged to the court that Maiden failed to stop when a siren was activated shortly after 2am. Another police car then pursued Maiden, at which point she was handcuffed, arrested and taken to Goulburn police station. The case will continue in Goulburn Local Court on May 18 -- Pearce rejected a request from Maiden's lawyer to adjourn the matter to the Queanbeyan court closer to Canberra.
The Financial Review'sJoe Aston reports she had been attending Liberal pollster Mark Textor's birthday party outside Canberra, along with guests like Scott Morrison and Chris Kenny. The guilty plea isn't in this morning's News Corp papers, though The Australian has reported on the matter online in an unbylined item, referencing but not linking to an extensive Goulburn Post report on the court appearance.
Maiden said she could not comment as the matter was before the courts.