STATUTES AMENDMENT (LICENCE DISQUALIFICATION) BILL

Second Reading

I am pleased to introduce the Statutes Amendment (Licence Disqualification) Bill 2020. This bill is one of the many measures the Marshall government is implementing to improve court efficiency. This bill amends the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 and the Road Traffic Act 1961 to simplify the process by which the courts currently calculate licence disqualifications and it will improve efficiency in the Magistrates Court.

The amendments in this bill, while simple in nature and providing efficiency to the Magistrates Court, were previously introduced into the parliament as part of the Statutes Amendment (Transport Portfolio) Bill 2017. The 2017 transport portfolio bill lapsed when parliament was prorogued ahead of the 2018 election, so I am pleased to be able to move these amendments today.

Section 47IAA of the Road Traffic Act allows South Australia Police officers to issue immediate loss of license notices (ILOLs) to drivers where they reasonably suspect the driver has committed certain drink and/or drug-driving offences. While the driver is licensed, the immediate loss of licence notice operates to suspend the driver's licence for a specified period of time. If the driver is not licensed, the driver is disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence or permit.

Where the driver is subsequently convicted of the offence and a mandatory minimum period of disqualification applies, the court must order that the driver is disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for a period determined by the court. Each of the offences to which section 47IAA of the Road Traffic Act 1961 applies has a mandatory minimum period of disqualification. These periods range from six months to three years. Section 47IAA of the Road Traffic Act 1991 applies to the following offences:

  • category 2 and category 3 drink-driving, that is, having a prescribed concentration of alcohol between .08 and .149 for category 2 and PCA of.15 and higher for category 3;
  • refusing or fail to submit to an alcotest or breath analysis;
  • refusing or failing to submit to a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test; and
  • being a driver of a motor vehicle involved in an accident and refusing or failing to submit to a compulsory blood test when being treated at a hospital for an injury suffered in the accident.

The offences I have listed also have a corresponding offence for committing the offence where a child under 16 was present in or on a motor vehicle at the relevant time. An immediate loss of licence notice can also be issued for these offences. When determining the period of disqualification, the court must take into account the amount of time a person has already been suspended or disqualified from driving as a result of the immediate loss of licence notice. The court may impose a period of disqualification that is less than the mandatory minimum period, as long as the period imposed is not less than the difference between the mandatory minimum and the period that has applied as a result of the immediate loss of licence notice.

I will give you an example and I hope this helps: Margaret holds a driver's licence. Margaret is pulled over by a SAPOL officer who reasonably suspects her of drink-driving, having observed her to be swerving and driving erratically on the road. Margaret submits to an alcotest and returns a blood alcohol concentration of .16 (i.e. a category 3 drink-driving offence pursuant to section 47B(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961).

The SAPOL officer issues Margaret with an immediate loss of licence notice for 12 months pursuant to section 47IAA(2). The ILOL notice takes effect at the time Margaret is given the notice. The ILOL operates to suspend Margaret's licence for 12 months. That is pursuant to section 47IAA(12)(b)(iv)(B). Of course, by this point she is telephoning her son or husband or somebody to come and pick her up because she has lost her licence and the notice says for 12 months.

Margaret is formally charged with driving while having a prescribed concentration of alcohol in blood pursuant to section 47B(1). Margaret is subsequently tried in the Magistrates Court three months later. The ILOL has not yet expired and Margaret is still suspended from driving for a further nine months. The court convicts Margaret of a category 3 drink-driving offence pursuant to section 47B(1) being an offence to which 47IAA applies. This is Margaret's first offence under section 47B(1).

Pursuant to section 47B(3)(a)(i)(B) the court is required to order that Margaret be disqualified from holding a driver's licence for a period of not less than 12 months. That is the mandatory minimum. In determining the relevant disqualification period, the court is required to take into account the amount of time Margaret has already had her licence suspended as a result of the ILOL as applied under section 47IAA(9).

Under section 47IAA(9)(e), the court may order a period of disqualification that is less than the mandatory minimum as long as the period ordered is not less than the difference between the mandatory minimum and the period of suspension that has applied as a result of the ILOL. In Margaret's case, the difference between the mandatory minimum (12 months) and the period of suspension that has already been applied as a result of the ILOL (three months) is nine months.

As a result, the court must order that Margaret be disqualified from driving for a period of not less than nine months. Notwithstanding, the court retains the discretion to impose a longer period of disqualification than the mandatory minimum where it sees fit. As Margaret held a driver's licence at the time of sentencing, the period of disqualification ordered by the court will operate to cancel her licence. So, members, I hope that is clear.

The calculation of the period of licence disqualification is quite straightforward in Margaret's case; however, if Margaret were still suspended at the time of sentencing and had already been suspended for three months, two weeks and 5 days, the court would have to subtract this period from the mandatory minimum period of 12 months to work out the minimum period of disqualification it must order, noting that it retains the discretion to impose a longer period of disqualification than the mandatory period where it sees fit.

The Chief Magistrate, no doubt exasperated by this process, has requested amendments to simplify this process, obviously due to the complexity of the current method of imposing the notional disqualification and then reducing it by the length already served under an immediate loss of licence notice. It is a bit more complicated than at first blush; nevertheless, Judge Hribal, our Chief Magistrate, has recommended this for the reasons we have explained.

The previous bill was not followed through and lapsed under the previous session of parliament, so it is important that we do deal with this. I had considered, as Attorney, whether we add it to another bill, but it has been waiting so long and Judge Hribal does see this as problematic for the day-to-day application in her courts, and so for that reason it is important I think that I bring this to your attention and hope that it will be favourably considered.

In short, the bill will simplify the process by allowing the courts to backdate the period of disqualification to the commencement of the immediate loss of licence notice in cases where the period of suspension or disqualification imposed by the notice has not ended. These amendments will also remove the need for the courts to undertake that complex backdating calculation and deliver increased efficiencies for them.

The government is also focused on ensuring we deliver an efficient justice system. By reintroducing these amendments to parliament, this government is giving parliament the opportunity to resolve an issue raised by Her Honour, and we certainly agree that this would help improve her court efficiency. Members, I commend the bill to you and seek leave to provide a short explanation of clauses without reading it.

Leave granted.

EXPLANATION OF CLAUSES

Part 1—Preliminary 1—Short title 2—Commencement 3—Amendment provisions

These clauses are formal.

Part 2—Amendment of Motor Vehicles Act 1959

4—Amendment of section 81E—Circumstances in which licence will be subject to mandatory alcohol interlock scheme conditions

This clause amends the principal Act to make an amendment to make the necessary reference to orders made under section 47IAA(9)(e)(i) of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

Part 3—Amendment of Road Traffic Act 1961

5—Amendment of section 47IAA—Power of police to impose immediate licence disqualification or suspension

This clause amends the principal Act to facilitate the ability of the court to take into account the period of licence disqualification or suspension that has applied to the person whether or not that period of disqualification or suspension has ended.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Odenwalder.