Repeat traffic offenders who adhere to driving bans will be rewarded thanks to changes to driving disqualification laws.
Last week, the state government announced tougher sanctions on those who repeatedly flout driver licence laws, and help for drivers who demonstrate they can be trusted.
Under the changes, police can confiscate the number plates or vehicles of repeat unauthorised drivers or serious driving offenders, for three or six months.
There will be automatic and minimum driving disqualification periods, and a revision of maximum jail terms for driving offences.
However, drivers who have been compliant with their disqualification period for two or four years could have their disqualification period lifted in court, unless they have been convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm.
The Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme, which adds an extra driving ban on top of disqualifications given in court, will be abolished under the changes.
Orange solicitor Neil Jones from Neil Jones Solicitors, and the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), support the changes, particularly incentives such as shortening lengthy driving disqualifications.
ALS NSW ACT CEO Lesley Turner said the Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme and lengthy disqualifications caused a vicious cycle in regional areas were there was little to no access to public transport so offending continued.
“One in 20 of our people are behind bars for unlicensed driving, some of that could be repeat offenders, 38 per cent of Aboriginal people have had a licence disqualified, suspended or cancelled,” Mr Taylor said.
“Twelve per cent of Aboriginal people found guilty of driving offences were ultimately jailed compared to five per cent for the rest of the community.”
Mr Jones said a loss of licence often had consequences beyond the penalty imposed by the courts.
“Perhaps the most significant and damaging of these is loss of employment,” he said.
“The reforms certainly may provide people who have been disqualified for a number of years an incentive to comply with the disqualification.”
He also welcomed the removal of the Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme and said it had done nothing to address the lengthy disqualification periods that led some people to drive during their disqualification period.
“It has been open to the courts to quash the habitual offender declarations and they often do,” Mr Jones said.
“That has helped people getting their lives back on track to get on the road sooner.”
But he was disappointed by a ban on people convicted of offences involving death or grievous bodily harm applying for a reduction on unrelated disqualification terms.
“Were it that they could not apply for a reduction of the disqualification arising directly from those offences seems perfectly proper,” Mr Jones said.
“It would be disappointing however to see drivers in the later years of life being excluded from relief because of actions in their youth, particularly if they have then gone on to have good driving records for a number of years thereafter.”
He was also concerned about mandatory sentencing.
“Sentencing guidelines provide clear direction whilst enabling a court to apply justice in the rare cases that departure from a ‘normal’ standard is warranted. That said, the new mandatory sentences are not punitive as before and should reduce the risk of re-offending during the disqualification period.”
“Similarly, the empowerment of police to impose greater on the spot penalties must be viewed with caution.
“Police already have power to deal with serious offenders and bring them before the courts.
“Beyond the imposition of penalties for minor infringements, more serious offences should be dealt with in accordance with the law, not through summary imposition of police penalties.
“I do not believe that the empowerment of police to impose significant penalties does anything to enhance the broader community view of police.”