24th May 2013
In recent time I have noticed the preponderance of people charged with either offences of driving whilst suspended or disqualified.
Why is it so that so many people are now been charged with this offence?
The answer is technology.
Police cars are now automatically scanning the registration of motor vehicles, and immediately identifying the owner of that vehicle as a person whose licence has been suspended or disqualified.
The courts look upon a person who has been driving knowing that their licence has been suspended or disqualified very unfavourably.
Basically the court reads the conduct of a person who has been suspended or disqualified as saying “I don’t care. I will do as I please and continued to drive”.
Not a very sensible attitude to be displayed to the court, which has enormous powers to impose very severe penalties, including an additional period of disqualification, large fines and even jail time.
Section 25a of the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act 1998 provides that a person shall not drive a motor vehicle whilst their licence is suspended or disqualified.
What is the difference is between suspended and disqualified from driving?
A suspension comes about from the accumulation of demerit points above the limit of 13 demerit points.
A disqualification comes about when a Court disqualifies a person from driving as a result of a serious traffic infringement such as Drink Driving.
Which is more serious, a suspension of a person’s licence because of accumulation of demerit points or a disqualification of a person’s licence by a court?
You would think that the more serious would be the disqualification of a person’s licence, because they have committed a serious driving offence rather than an accumulation of demerit points, but in fact the law regards both a suspension and a disqualification equally unsatisfactory, and applies the same penalty.
Maximum fine $3300 or imprisonment for 18 months or both.
Maximum Penalty $5500 or imprisonment for 2 years or both.
A YOUNG MAN
Recently I acted for a young man who was working hard and making significant advancements with a large multinational company, and had been appointed the manager of one of that companies outlets at the age of 20 years. His employer was paying for him to commence a university course in business administration and finance – his future looked assured. Yes indeed a very bright, hard-working, industrious and commendable young man with enormous potential, but a terrible driving record.
As a result of accumulation of demerit points, he was sent a letter to advise him that his licence had been suspended for a period of 3 months, and that he was not to drive during this period. He was apprehended by the police, but advised the police that he had not received the notification as he had changed addresses. The police then handed him a written notice of the suspension of his licence, which he was required to acknowledge. He escaped any action by the police, but had to make arrangements for his car to be collected and returned to his home.
Approximately a 6 week later he was apprehended again by the police, and this time there were no excuses, as he had been provided with a written notification on the previous occasion. In addition his car was unregistered and uninsured.
The Magistrate was not impressed. Nor was the Magistrate prepared to grant any concessions, notwithstanding his splendid character references and business acumen and industry. The magistrate applied the automatic period of disqualification of 12 months and imposed a financial penalty of $750.
THE SEX WORKER
This is a rather sad case, for reasons which will become apparent in due course.
Unfortunately this lady had an appalling driving record. Some years earlier she had lost her licence by way of suspension following an accumulation of demerit points. Subsequently she was apprehended by the police driving whilst suspended and charged.
The magistrate accepted her explanation that she was unaware that her licence had been suspended, and the charges were dismissed under section 10 of the Crime (Sentencing) Act.
Over the following years, this lady continued to accrue demerit points for speeding, as a consequence of which, the Roads and Maritime Department notified her that her licence had been suspended for a period of 6 months, but she continued to drive.
Again she was apprehended by the police, who provided her with a formal notification of hurt suspension, and again that would have been the end of the matter, except approximately a week later she was again apprehended by the police, and acknowledged the fact that she was driving whilst suspended. It was quite an expensive exercise arranging for her vehicle to be towed to her home, plus the fact that she was now charged with driving whilst suspended.
This lady had had a very difficult childhood. Her father had been murdered. She had a sad and violent marriage and was raising her children without any support from their father. She had been the innocent victim of a robbery and had experienced numerous other traumatic events in her life.
Just prior to the hearing she was diagnosed with breast cancer and required a mastectomy.
The Magistrate although very sympathetic to her current medical problems was not prepared to allow her to continue to drive. In addition as is often the case there are other hidden and significant penalties. She had to travel from the country to the city on a regular basis for chemo therapy and other treatment because of her cancer. Of course she was no longer able to work in her previous occupation, and had no training or means of supporting herself and her family in this bleak, emotionally distressing and financially difficult period of time ahead of her.
She was find $1000 and disqualified for an additional period of 12 months.
I have been instructed to lodge an appeal, although I am not hopeful that there will be any variation of the sentence, because of her previous driving record, and the fact that she has already been granted a dispensation previously for the very same offence. Watch this space!