Parliament Should Put Brakes on Cop Chase Law
Parliament is being urged to reject a new law with tough mandatory penalties for drivers failing to stop for police, with criminal defence lawyer Cameron Browne saying the penalties are worse than for some drink-driving offences.
The proposed new law would carry a mandatory $5000 fine and two year licence suspension for anyone convicted of failing to stop a vehicle when ordered to do so by police.
Mr Browne, a Director of Potts Lawyers, Queensland’s biggest private criminal defence law firm, said the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2012 currently before the Queensland Parliament, had major flaws in it and was not needed as current penalties were adequate.
He said the legislation was driven by some high profile police car chases which drew angry promises from the Government to crack down on evaders. The ensuing legislation was too strict though and could ensnare otherwise innocent drivers.
“The proposed new charge of failing to stop when directed by a police officer in a police vehicle reaches well beyond those offenders involved in high speed car chases,” he said.
“A person who panics for fear they haven’t paid a recent parking fine and drives three blocks before regaining their composure and pulling over, now faces the standard minimum penalty.
Even a person who genuinely did not realise that the direction applied to them, can expect to be charged and have to defend the matter in court.
“In reality any conduct involving a police chase traditionally encompasses more serious offending behavior than failing to stop, such as dangerous driving.
“The penalties for dangerous driving already allow for adequate punishment of offenders. Imposing significant penalties for arguably the least dangerous part of a police chase (ie the failure to stop) achieves no clear objective and punishes people who have not even participated in a “police chase”, Mr Browne said.
He said failing to pull over to the side of the road within a reasonable time, regardless of whether the person voluntarily desisted very shortly thereafter, would result in the blanket imposition of one of the largest fines handed down in the Magistrates Court and a two year licence disqualification.
“A person with no previous criminal or traffic history, and who was not speeding or driving erratically, faces losing a job that requires a licence and being unable to provide for their family.
“A person who drove with a blood alcohol reading of 0.149% faces a court which has greater capacity to consider their individual circumstances when determining the penalty,” Mr Browne said..
“A government deciding what is appropriate by a broad-brush approach ultimately harms the system, the victims and the community itself,” he said.
“Parliament should reject this short-sighted and draconian law change which only undermines our concept of what a justice system should be about,” Mr Browne said.
Issued on behalf of Potts Lawyers by David Wilson Media Services.
Media contact: David Wilson: Ph: 0414 224 527; The_Wilsons@iprimus.com.au
Potts Lawyers: 44 Davenport Street, Southport 4215
140 Ann Street, Brisbane 4000
Telephone 5532 3133 ( Gold Coast); 3221 4999 ( Brisbane)