Australian TV journalist Natasha Exelby has taken “full responsibility” after she was caught driving on a suspended license while four times over the legal alcohol limit.
The former Channel 10 presenter, who left the network after 10 years in February, fronted the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, where it was heard she crashed her Kia Cerato into a parked car in Toorak on June 26.
Police officers attended the scene on Orrong Rd at 6.15pm, where they conducted a preliminary breath test. A subsequent test returned a blood alcohol reading of .220.
Exelby, 40, told police at the time she drank “two seltzers” that afternoon.
However, her defence lawyer Raj Malhotra told the court Exelby consumed “a couple more” than two drinks after suffering a “mental health breakdown”.
He argued Exelby had remained abstinent from alcohol since the incident three months ago and that she had no prior criminal offences.
Further, Exelby said she wasn’t aware she was driving on a suspended license, with her lawyer telling the court her license was renewed at VicRoads on the spot after she recently relocated to Melbourne.
Police argued Exelby was sent a letter outlining that her license was pending due to a “medical review”, which the former newsreader claimed never arrived.
The Judicial Registrar presiding over the case, Sivaratnam Kandasamy, acknowledged medical reports provided to the court, conceding Exelby had suffered “trauma” and that she had been through “a very difficult time.”
“This incident seems to be a one-off because there is no history of alcohol use,” Kandasamy said.
Ms Exelby managed to escape a conviction. She was fined $2000 and her license was disqualified for 22 months.
Providing a statement to the Herald Sun following her court appearance, Exelby said she was going through a “dark period” at the time of her offence.
“It’s no secret that I’ve suffered from major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for many years,” she said.
“At the time of the incident, I was going through a very dark period with multiple medication changes.
“Never in my life did I think I would be capable of what happened but regardless of my mental health, my actions were shocking beyond words and I take full responsibility.”
News.com.au has contacted Exelby for further comment.
It comes after Exelby left Channel 10 earlier this year, where she presented the national bulletin for Ten News First: Breakfast, following a wide-ranging career which included a stint as a foreign correspondent in Turkey.
Exelby’s career hit a brief snag when she became the subject of a viral video in 2017 when she was working for the ABC. While presenting the late night bulletin, she became distracted by her pen without realising she was on-air.
Upon discovering she was live, Exelby dramatically gasped and resumed presenting, which was later reproduced on Media Watch’s Facebook page where it was shared globally.
She was later taken off-air by the ABC, which prompted many to believe she was punted in the wake of the embarrassing blooper.
ABC news director Gaven Morris argued she was a freelance journalist who they booked occasionally, while Exelby claimed the ABC told her she was unable to present live again following the blooper and moved her to an off-air role.
Exelby now works as a media consultant with her own company, XLB Media, which she founded in 2016.
She has previously opened up about her struggle with mental health, revealing on an episode of Studio 10 in September last year that she spent her weekend “crying for no reason”.
“I think R U OK? Day is so important. I’ve been deliberately pretty open with the fact that I’ve danced with the depression devil for 24 years,” she added.
“I hope we don’t just do this [talk openly about mental health] as a one-off. Mental illness is an illness.
“If I have to have a day off because I have tonsillitis, I’ve got to have a day off because I’m fighting depression.
“We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”