Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party has voted in support of new laws to immediately suspend licences of drivers for excessive speeding offences and other serious offences like ‘hit-and-run’.
Tania Maxwell and her colleague Stuart Grimley were joined at Parliament last week by Jeynelle Dean-Hayes and her husband, Josh, to welcome the new laws.
Ms Dean-Hayes’ son, Tyler, was killed in 2017 in a hit-and-run accident and she has campaigned since then for immediate suspension of licences where drivers are charged with serious traffic offences. Ms Dean-Hayes has been in regular contact with the two Justice Party MP’s, who, in turn have held several discussions with the Government over the new laws.
Ms Maxwell said she was sickened by police records that report nearly 150 deaths and more than 18,000 injuries from hit-and-run driving in Victoria between 1 July 2000 and 30 June 2019.
Ms Maxwell expressed concern about the ‘exceptional circumstances’ and ‘just cause’ elements of the Bill, hoping they would not weaken penalties and sentencing outcomes as has been the case with laws against assaults on emergency workers.
Ms Maxwell said the links between drug driving and road trauma were well documented and that the Justice Party has met with the Government to lobby for further changes that could see drivers who are repeatedly caught with drugs in their system subject to imprisonment, rather than only the current monetary penalties. The Party has also pushed for an expansion of drug testing powers for Victoria Police, which is currently confined to Highway Patrol.
The option of incarceration has been backed by a number of magistrates, police and even defence lawyers of repeat drug drivers. Under this proposal, magistrates would still retain discretion depending on the circumstances on the case but this change will allow more flexibility – and severity – when it comes to sentencing. Last year both the Opposition and Government vowed to look into this loophole.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Franz Holzer has been one of the fiercest advocates for this change, saying “there’s a gap in the legislative regime where drug drivers don’t have the same consequences as drink drivers and I really hope that situation changes”. However, more than six other magistrates have followed suit in calling for the change.
The current working group review and ongoing inquiry into Road Safety are due to report back in June this year and the results of these inquiries are likely to determine the next steps in reducing recidivist drug driving and improving overall road safety.