Following a 2013 Inquiry by the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society of New South Wales in relation to the Legislative Assembly Committee on Law & Safety’s Inquiry into driver license disqualification, a number of key proposals were put forward. This is on the back of the Law Society advocating consistently for reform of unauthorised driving offences under ss53 and 54 of the Road Transport Act 2013 NSW.
Addressing the keys issues raised in the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference the Committee made the following proposals:
- Establishing a right for persons to apply to the Court to have outstanding disqualification periods removed having completed a minimum offence-free period. The minimum recommendation being 2-3 years. Reasons would have to be given to the Court that could include family, employment, health, education, age, financial circumstances and place of residence.
- The Committee has proposed for years that the Habitual Traffic Offenders Scheme be abolished. This is on the basis that additional periods of disqualification that arise are excessive, onerous and do not appear to act as any type of deterrent and there is no right of appeal to the District Court
- Provide the Courts with discretion when imposing disqualification periods for unauthorised driving offences rather than mandatory periods.
- Having a range of penalties in relation to disqualification periods should reflect different levels of seriousness.
- The Committee opposes vehicle sanctions for offenders who repeatedly drive while disqualified, particularly the taking of offender’s vehicles.
The NSW Government response was to support the recommendations and has introduced legislation to amend the Road Transport Act 2013 to provide the Local and District Courts with the power to order any outstanding disqualification periods are revoked for people who have completed a minimum offence-free-period and who do not represent a road safety risk.
An applicant will be required to complete a minimum offence-free period of two years to be eligible to make an application.
Where an applicant has committed certain offences as one of a chain of offences leading to their current disqualification, they will be required to complete a minimum offence-free period of four years.
Early recommendations are that in deciding whether to grant an application the courts will be required to take into account the following factors:
- Public safety;
- The character of the individual;
- The individual’s conduct since the original disqualification period was imposed;
- The nature of the offence that led to the disqualification; and
- Any other relevant circumstances
The Government also agreed with the Committee’s concerns regarding Habitual Traffic Offender scheme and will introduce legislation to abolish it.
Other notable responses from the NSW Government include:
- Removing mandatory license disqualification periods for unauthorised driving offences and replace them with automatic and minimum license disqualification periods;
- To provide that license disqualification periods for unauthorised driving offences run from the date of conviction unless otherwise ordered by the court;
- Revise the maximum imprisonment terms that relate to unauthorised driving offences. Maximum terms will be set in a manner proportionate to maximum terms that apply to low and mid-range PCA offences;