Stoner demands demerit points overhaul

NSW Opposition introduces Bill to give courts the power to rule on demerit points, but not for work diary offences

Stoner demands demerit points overhaul
Stoner demands demerit points overhaul
By Brad Gardner | September 25, 2009

The New South Wales Opposition has called for changes to the policy on demerit points to give magistrates the power to waive them.

Nationals leader Andrew Stoner has introduced the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment (Demerit Points) Bill into parliament to overturn a controversial section of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

Section 10 of the Act allows a court to record a guilty verdict but not issue financial penalties in extenuating circumstances. But the provision does not apply to demerit points, meaning if someone is not fined they will still lose points if found guilty.

Stoner has labelled it an "anomaly" and says demerit points should be dealt with in the same way fines are decided.

"If the fine is waived it is logical that the demerit points should also be waived," he says.

However, the proposed changes apply to speeding and traffic light offences only, after the Opposition decided against including in the Bill work diary offences under fatigue management regulations.

A spokesman for Stoner says the decision was made because the Opposition is attempting to resolve the matter through a disallowance motion in the Legislative Council.

Former Minister for Roads Michael Daley passed demerit points for work diary offences as a regulation, meaning it can be abolished by a majority vote in the Legislative Council.

Duncan Gay, who previously held the shadow roads portfolio, originally proposed the motion to scrap fatigue management regulations unless the Government agreed to end demerit points for work diary offences.

The Opposition holds a majority in the Legislative Council and Stoner’s spokesman says the motion is due to be reviewed in November.

"We have between now and then to sort something out," he says.

The Law Society of NSW has long campaigned for changes to the demerit points system on the basis offenders given a second chance by courts should not face further penalties.

But the Bill will need the support of the Rees Government to become law. The Government has previously refused to alter the policy.

Despite the Government's non-negotiable stance, the trucking industry has criticised demerit points for work diary offences because of the confusion and stress it has caused.

Drivers are facing financial uncertainty because they have lost multiple points for work diary offences, while others have been given contradictory messages from the Government on the issue.

According to a spokesperson from the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), the department is responsible for issuing demerit points. But former Minister for Roads Michael Daly previously said magistrates were obliged to inform drivers during court cases.

As reported by ATN, a NSW-based trucking company that declined to be named was dealt with under section 10 of the Act.

The company driver faced a $250 fine for incorrectly filling out his work diary but the magistrate did not fine him because the driver suffered from Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of Autism.

"The judge turned it down under section 10 [of the Act] because he had a medical certificate," the owner of the trucking company told ATN.

But the driver was still slugged with four demerit points because a guilty verdict was recorded.

"I would have thought if you had a second chance [from the courts] then the points wouldn’t apply," the owner of the company said at the time.

Before being promoted to the police portfolio, Daley attempted to soften enforcement practices by removing fines for minor work diary errors.

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