Proposed changes to sentencing for Drink Driving offences - Good Behaviour Licences
The NSW Sentencing Council has released a report on the use of Good Behaviour Bonds and Non-Conviction Orders (commonly referred to as ‘section 10s’) by courts. You can find the report here:
Of particular interest is the proposal regarding the introduction of ‘good behaviour licences’ for people found guilty of a ‘drink drive’ (PCA) offence. One of the most common instructions that we receive from clients charge with a PCA offence is ‘I really need my licence for work/family commitments/ community commitments’. The question that almost always follows is ‘Is there anyway that I can get a ‘work’ licence?’.
There is no doubt that the flow on effect from a loss of licence for a period of months or even years can be wide ranging. A loss of licence often means a loss of employment, which in turn means bills can’t be paid, home loan repayments can’t be met and a significant strain is placed on family life.
Some people live in areas that aren’t services, or are not regularly serviced by public transport, other people may live in a household were they are the only licence holder and still others may have family members who rely on them to drive to medical appointments and the like. There is no doubt that a lot of people charged with drink driving have a very real and pressing need for their licence.
Due to a guideline judgement on High Range PCA that was handed down by the District Court in 2004, the court is restricted in the weight it can place on a defendant’s need for a licence when exercising leniency in sentencing. The fact that Parliament has determined that minimum disqualification periods must be imposed by the courts upon conviction has resulted in a situation where either a person is not convicted, and therefore receives no time off the road, or is convicted and, depending on the offence, faces a minimum of between 3 months to 2 years disqualification.
The NSW Sentencing Council has recommended that a ‘half way point’ be introduced whereby upon conviction, the offender could be placed a ‘good behaviour licence’ similar to the programme established by the RMS (formerly the RTA) for people facing a demerit point suspension of their licence. This could be an option that would result in a ‘fairer’ result where a non-conviction would not be appropriate, but where a disqualification would be too harsh.
The NSW Attorney General has issued this Media Release on the topic. http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/Corporate/ll_corporate.nsf/vwFiles/120312_MR24-12_drink_drivers_notice.pdf/$file/120312_MR24-12_drink_drivers_notice.pdf
It will be interesting to see if Parliament implements any changes to the sentencing options available to the court.
If you have been charged with a drink driving offence, feel free to call one of our traffic lawyers on (02) 9521 2222. Alternatively you can send your enquiry online now and we will call you shortly.