A Wollongong lawyer who ended up in court over his failure to pay a simple parking ticket has had his driver’s licence suspended for the 13th time in a decade.
Aaron Kernaghan found himself on the wrong side of the bar table when he faced Campbelltown Local Court on Friday on a charge of driving with a licence which had been suspended due to fine default.
The 40-year-old, who practices criminal law and often defends clients charged with traffic offences, entered a plea of guilty and sought to have the charge dismissed without conviction or penalty, claiming he was unaware his licence was suspended when pulled over by police at Appin on August 11 last year.
However, Magistrate Brett Shields refused the request for leniency on account of Kernaghan’s poor traffic record, a copy of which was tendered to the court.
It showed Kernaghan has been detected speeding eight times between 2002 and 2017 – two of which occurred during double demerit point periods.
He was also fined for not stopping at a red arrow earlier this year.
However, the Mercury can also reveal Kernaghan had repeatedly failed to pay outstanding fines stemming back as far as 2007, prompting the RMS to suspend his licence for fine default 12 times since February 2007. The suspension periods ranged from four days to five months.
Kernaghan’s licence had been suspended for six days due to an unpaid parking fine when police stopped him in August.
In court on Friday, defence lawyer Leah Rowan said Kernaghan’s offence had arisen out of “the state of his personal life and finances” at the time.
She said he’d been placed under “extraordinary [media] scrutiny” after his law firm, Kernaghan and Associates Pty Ltd, was liquidated in March 2016 owing more than $500,000, including almost $450,000 in unpaid taxes.
She said the negative publicity had been “humiliating” for Kernaghan and had led to a downturn in work.
“He finds himself before the court sitting in the position of defendant for the first time in 40 years,” Ms Rowan said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a gentleman who’s more humble, embarrassed and devastated to find themselves in this position than Mr Kernaghan is.
“[But] his life is getting back under control….he’s learnt from that and has taken steps across the ball to get his affairs in order and not find himself in this situation again.”
Magistrate Shields formally recorded a criminal conviction against Kernaghan as well as fining him $350 and suspending his licence until next February.
“As a practitioner before the court you will know your driving record doesn’t assist you in relation to [leniency]. Even though there aren’t significant matters, there’s a number of them,” Magistrate Shields said.