Mandatory imprisonment to go?

Edit: Since writing this last year the predictions have largely been fulfilled (see a more recent post Speed interlocks for more).

Mandatory imprisonment is on the way out. The Road Safety Amendment (Hoon Driving) Bill 2010 was passed in the last session of parliament. The same bill introduces the ability for the police to apply for forfeiture of vehicles on the commission of a second licensing offence.

According to the Sentencing Advisory Council, driving whilst suspended or disqualified was the most common principal proven offence in the Magistrates’ Court in 2007-2008. That is an astounding statistic considering it is one of very few offences to carry with it a mandatory term of imprisonment on second conviction or finding of guilt.
There has been talk of abolishing the mandatory minimum penalty for some time. It came as no surprise that it was the number one recommendation in the Council’s Driving Whilst Disqualified or Suspended: Report. Other recommendations included:

  • increased resources for Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to increase the likelihood of detection
  • the expansion of impoundment and immobilisation powers
  • establishing a specialist list in the Magistrates’ Court to deal with repeat offenders
  • reform of the demerit points system
Derryn Hinch spoke with a Research Fellow from the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) about the issue this afternoon. The Sentencing Advisory Council is suggesting that future enforcement efforts concentrate on taking away offenders’ vehicles, rather than their licences.

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