A person who conducts a ‘burnout’ ie. operates a motor vehicle so as to cause the vehicle to undergo a sustained loss of traction is guilty of an offence – where the maximum penalty is 10 penalty units ($1100). However, where the person is guilty of an ‘aggravated burnout’ (see s41(2) below) the person is liable to a penalty of 30 penalty units ($3300) for a first offence; and 30 penalty units and/or 9 months imprisonment for any second or subsequent offence. Upon the commission of a second or subsequent offence the motor vehicle is automatically forfeited to the Crown upon conviction (s219 Road Transport (General) Act 2005) – unless a finding of extreme hardship is made by the court. The offence of aggravated burnout also carries an automatic period of disqualification for 12 months (see s41(7) Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 below). The offence of ‘aggravated burnout’ also entitles police (either at the time or up to 10 days after the alleged offence) to confiscate the motor vehicle for a period of up to 3 months (see s221(1) Road Transport (General) Act 2005).
It is a defence to these charges – if it is proven (on the balance of probabilities) that the vehicle was not operated in such a manner deliberately. Further, application can be made for the vehicle to be returned early however, not less than 5 days after the order (see s222).
The relevant legislation and the Second Reading speech relating to the Vehicle Sanctions Bill 2012 is set out below – which relates to the confiscation of number plates and vehicles.
ROAD TRANSPORT (SAFETY AND TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT) ACT 1999 – SECT 41
41 Conduct associated with road and drag racing and other activities
(cf Traffic Act, s 4BA)
(1) A person must not, on a road or road related area, operate a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause the vehicle to undergo sustained loss of traction by one or more of the driving wheels (or, in the case of a motor cycle, the driving wheel) of the vehicle.
Maximum penalty: 10 penalty units.
(2) A person must not:
(a) operate a motor vehicle contrary to subsection (1) knowing that any petrol, oil, diesel fuel or other inflammable liquid has been placed on the surface of the road or road related area beneath one or more tyres of the vehicle, or
(b) do, or omit to do, any other thing that prolongs, sustains, intensifies or increases loss of traction as referred to in subsection (1), or
(c) repeatedly operate a motor vehicle contrary to subsection (1), or
(d) operate a motor vehicle contrary to subsection (1) at a time, or on a road or road related area in a place, knowing that there is an appreciable risk that operation of the vehicle in that manner at that time and place is likely to interfere with the amenity of the locality or the peaceful enjoyment of any person in the locality or make the place unsafe for any person in the locality, or
(e) willingly participate in any group activity involving the operation of one or more vehicles contrary to subsection (1), or
(f) organise, promote or urge any person to participate in, or view, any group activity involving the operation of one or more vehicles contrary to subsection (1), or
(g) photograph or film a motor vehicle being operated contrary to subsection (1) for the purpose of organising or promoting the participation of persons in any such group activity.
Maximum penalty: 30 penalty units (in the case of a first offence) or 30 penalty units or imprisonment for 9 months or both (in the case of a second or subsequent offence).
(3) In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) or (2), it is a defence if the person charged satisfies the court that the vehicle, although operated as referred to in subsection (1), was not so operated deliberately.
(4) A person must not, on a road or road related area, engage in conduct prescribed by regulations made for the purposes of this section, being conduct associated with the operation of a motor vehicle for speed competitions or other activities specified or described in the regulations.
Maximum penalty: 5 penalty units.
(5) Nothing in this section applies to the operation of a motor vehicle for the purposes of a race, attempt or trial undertaken in accordance with an approval given under section 40 by the Commissioner of Police.
(6) In considering whether an offence has been committed under subsection (2) (d), the court is to have regard to all the circumstances of the case, including the following:
(a) the nature and use of the road or road related area in which the offence is alleged to have been committed,
(b) the nature and use of any premises in the locality of the road or road related area in which the offence is alleged to have been committed.
(7) A person who is convicted by a court of an offence under subsection (2) (a), (b), (c) or (d) in relation to a motor vehicle is disqualified from holding a driver licence by the conviction and without any specific order of the court for 12 months.
(8) Any disqualification under this section is in addition to any penalty imposed for the offence.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 217A
“sanctionable offence” means any of the following:
(a) a high range speed offence,
(b) an offence under section 40 or 41 (2) of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 ,
(c) an offence under section 51B (Police pursuits) of the Crimes Act 1900 ,
(d) any other offence prescribed by the regulations.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 218
218 When additional sanctions may be imposed
A police officer may impose any one or more of the sanctions set out in section 218A if the police officer reasonably believes that a motor vehicle:
(a) is being or has (on that day or during the past 10 days) been operated on a road by an offending operator of the vehicle so as to commit a sanctionable offence, or
(b) is being or has (on that day or during the past 10 days) been operated on a road by a driver (whether or not an offending operator of the motor vehicle) during a number plate confiscation period, or
(c) is being or has (on that day or during the past 10 days) been operated on a road by an offending operator of the vehicle who has committed an offence under section 218E (Failure to comply with production notice), or
(d) is being operated on a road by a person who has been charged with an offence under section 218F (Number plate and other offences), or
(e) is the subject of forfeiture under section 219.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 218A
218A Sanctions that may be imposed
(1) The police officer may do any one or more of the following:
(a) seize and take charge of the motor vehicle and cause it to be moved to a place determined by the Commissioner,
(b) immediately, or as soon as practicable afterwards, give or send the offending operator a notice (a “motor vehicle production notice”) requiring the offending operator to move or cause the vehicle to be moved to, or to produce or cause to be produced to a police officer at, a place specified in the notice no later than on the date and time specified in the notice (the “motor vehicle production date”),
(c) remove and confiscate the number plates affixed to the motor vehicle and attach a number plate confiscation notice to the motor vehicle,
(d) immediately or as soon as practicable afterwards:
(i) give the offending operator a notice (a “number plate production notice”) requiring the offending operator to remove or cause to be removed the number plates affixed to the vehicle and produce them to a police officer at a place specified in the notice no later than on the date and time specified in the notice (the “number plate production date”), and
(ii) attach a number plate confiscation notice to the motor vehicle,
(e) as soon as practicable afterwards, send to the offending operator at the garage address of the motor vehicle:
(i) a notice (a “number plate production notice”) requiring the offending operator to remove or cause to be removed the number plates affixed to the vehicle and produce them to a police officer at a place specified in the notice no later than on the date and time specified in the notice (the “number plate production date”), and
(ii) a number plate confiscation notice.
(2) An offending operator who is sent a number plate confiscation notice under subsection (1) (e) must attach the number plate confiscation notice to the motor vehicle in the manner described on the notice no later than on the number plate production date.
Maximum penalty: 30 penalty units.
(3) Except as provided by this Division, a motor vehicle to which a number plate confiscation notice is attached under:
(a) subsection (1) (c) is prohibited from being operated on any road during the period of 3 months commencing on the day the notice is attached to the vehicle, and
(b) subsection (1) (d) or (e) is prohibited from being operated on any road during the period of 3 months commencing from the number plate production date.
Note: See section 218F with respect to number plate offences.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 218D
218D Removal, impounding and production of vehicle
(1) Any motor vehicle moved to, or produced at, a place in accordance with section 218A may, subject to the regulations, be impounded by the Commissioner at that place or may be moved to and impounded at any other place determined by the Commissioner.
(2) A certificate in writing given by a police officer as to the fact and cost of any such movement is evidence of those matters.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 219
219 Forfeiture of vehicles on finding of guilt of offending operator
(1) A motor vehicle used in connection with a sanctionable offence that is a second or subsequent offence by the offending operator under the provision concerned within a 5 year period is, by the finding of guilt by the court, forfeited to the Crown unless already forfeited under section 218E or the court otherwise directs under section 219A.
Note: A forfeited motor vehicle may be crash tested-see section 225 (6).
(2) A motor vehicle used in connection with an offence under section 218F (a “number plate offence”) is, by the finding of guilt by the court, forfeited to the Crown unless already forfeited under section 218E or the court otherwise directs under section 219A.
Note: A forfeited motor vehicle may be crash tested-see section 225 (6).
(3) Any forfeiture under this section is in addition to any other penalty that may be imposed for the offence concerned, but for the purposes of any rights of appeal against a penalty so imposed by the court finding the offence to be proven, the forfeiture is taken to be, or to be part of, that penalty.
(4) For the purposes of this section, payment of the amount specified in a penalty notice issued in respect of a sanctionable offence or a number plate offence, or in any process issued subsequent to such a penalty notice, as the amount that is payable in order to dispose of the alleged offence without having it dealt with by a court has the same effect as a finding by a court that the offence was proven.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 219A
219A Commutation of forfeiture
(1) The court that finds a person guilty of an offence referred to in section 218E (5) or 219 (2) may, at the time of making that finding, by order direct that the forfeiture that would otherwise be imposed under the provision concerned by that finding be commuted to a period of impounding, or confiscation of number plates, specified in the order, if the court is satisfied that the forfeiture of the motor vehicle will cause extreme hardship to the offending operator or any other person (emphasis is mine).
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), financial loss or difficulty in carrying out employment (whether paid or unpaid) or in travelling to a place of employment or business or to any place for the purposes of education, training or study does not constitute extreme hardship.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 221
221 Retention of motor vehicle impounded or number plates confiscated under this Division
(1) The Commissioner is to retain a motor vehicle impounded under section 218D for the period of 3 months after its impoundment, unless it is sooner released under this Division or in accordance with the regulations (emphasis is mine).
(2) The Authority is to retain number plates confiscated under section 218A for the period of 3 months after they are confiscated, unless they are sooner released under this Division or in accordance with the regulations.
(3) This section does not apply in the case of a motor vehicle impounded in the circumstances referred to in section 218 (e), except as prescribed by the regulations.
(3) The period for which a motor vehicle was impounded under section 218D is to be reckoned as counting towards a period of impounding imposed under this section.
(4) A motor vehicle impounded by an order of a court under this section is to be retained by the Commissioner for the time required by the order, unless it is sooner released under this Division.
(5) Number plates confiscated by an order of a court under this section are to be retained by the Authority for the time required by the order, unless they are sooner released under this Division.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) ACT 2005 – SECT 222
222 Early release of motor vehicle and number plates on application to Local Court
(1) A person may apply to the Local Court for an order for the release into the person’s custody of:
(a) a motor vehicle impounded under this Division before the end of the period of impounding imposed on the motor vehicle, or
(b) number plates confiscated under this Division before the end of the number plate confiscation period applying to the number plates.
(2) An order cannot provide for release on a day that is less than 5 working days after the vehicle was impounded or the number plates were confiscated.
(3) In determining whether to make an order under this section, the Local Court is entitled to have regard to the following:
(a) the safety of the public and the public interest in preventing the use of a motor vehicle that the Court considers is reasonably likely in all the circumstances to be used for further sanctionable offences,
(b) any alleged extreme hardship to a person other than the registered operator of the motor vehicle arising from the impoundment of the vehicle or confiscation of the number plates.
(4) The motor vehicle or number plates are to be released by order of the Local Court only after the applicant has paid in full any applicable movement, towing and storage fees under section 223.
(5) An applicant into whose custody a motor vehicle is released by an order under this section must acknowledge in writing receipt of the motor vehicle from the custody of the Commissioner.
(6) An applicant into whose custody number plates are released by an order under this section must acknowledge in writing receipt of the number plates from the custody of the Authority.
(7) An applicant into whose custody number plates are released by an order under this section must remove any number plate confiscation notice attached to the motor vehicle before the motor vehicle is operated on any road.
ROAD TRANSPORT (GENERAL) AMENDMENT (VEHICLE SANCTIONS) BILL 2012
Mr GREG SMITH (Epping—Attorney General, and Minister for Justice) [3.59 p.m.]: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
As this bill was introduced in the other place on 13 March 2012 and is in the same form, the second reading speech appears at pages 9356 to 9361 of the Hansard for that day. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH (Coogee) [3.59 p.m.]: I speak on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. Perhaps a rather more informal title for this bill could be the “hitting hoons where it hurts” bill. The people of New South Wales are sick and tired of the idiots who treat our roads like racetracks. They are sickened by the crashes, the loss of life and the waste of police resources that are caused by police pursuits. The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 is specifically targeted at those who engage in high-range speeding, that is, speeding by more than 45 kilometres per hour. It also is aimed at those who stupidly and dangerously cause police pursuits.
Despite already tough penalties, which include both immediate roadside licence suspension and fines of up to $3,300, the number of police-detected and camera-detected high-range speeding offences has remained constant. In 2011 the New South Wales Police Force commenced 3,079 legal actions for offences of exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres per hour. In 2011 there were 1,781 police pursuits and 635 legal actions brought, of which 20 were for second or subsequent offences. The offence of being involved in a police pursuit is so serious that it will now be brought within the vehicle sanctions scheme and the offenders will be treated in the same manner as are car hoons.
For practical reasons, the scheme will apply only to offenders caught by police and not those caught by camera. One major change that the bill proposes is remarkably simple: If a driver is caught speeding at over 45 kilometres an hour or is involved in a police pursuit, the police will get out their screwdrivers immediately and remove the numberplates of the car. It will be illegal to drive that car on public roads for a fixed three-month period. It will be up to the offending driver to call a tow truck to tow the car to a place where it can be legally parked. The police will not pay for the towing. The police will not have to remain and wait for the tow truck to arrive. The police will not shoulder vehicle storage costs and they will not need to pursue operators to recover unpaid towing and storage fees.
Currently it is illegal to park a car without numberplates on a public road. Therefore, a new scheme is proposed in the bill. Once police have removed the numberplates, an A4-sized numberplate confiscation notice will be affixed to the inside of the windscreen of a car and on the windscreen, fuel tank or seat of a motorcycle. The notice must remain in place for the duration of the three-month confiscation period. It will state clearly that the vehicle is subject to a sanction and that the numberplates have been removed. It also will advise that the vehicle cannot be driven during the vehicle’s sanction period and that the vehicle may be impounded and forfeited if operated during the sanction period.
This will allow a car with confiscated plates showing such a notice to be legally parked but not driven on the street. Any removal of a confiscation notice will mean that authorities can treat the vehicle as if it were unregistered or abandoned and it can be impounded or disposed of. The bill provides appropriate offences and penalties in support of this new numberplate confiscation sanction. As the vehicle will still be in the possession of the offender there is a risk of a proliferation of unregistered vehicles on our roads or vehicles with false numberplates. The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government is committed to the continuing rollout of automatic numberplate recognition throughout the highway patrol fleet, which will increase the ability of police to detect vehicles fitted with false numberplates. People continuing to do so will be caught and prosecuted under these new offences.
It will be an offence to drive a vehicle with numberplates not issued by the Roads and Maritime Services. It will be an offence to drive a car subject to a numberplate confiscation sanction. If one removes, tampers with, alters or modifies a numberplate confiscation notice it will be an offence. It also will be an offence to drive a car with an altered numberplate or anything that could be mistaken for a numberplate. If one causes, permits, allows or fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent a vehicle being used contrary to the sanction scheme it will be an offence. If one makes a false statement to secure an early release of one’s vehicle or numberplates it will be an offence. The possession of unauthorised numberplates without lawful excuse will be an offence.
Taking into account human nature and ingenuity, a new offence is created to stop people falsely displaying a numberplate confiscation notice so that they can park an unregistered or unplated vehicle on the street legally. That has been well thought out by the Minister. As with all matters involving the driving of vehicles, safeguards must be put in place to make sure the driver of a car is held responsible whether or not he or she is the registered owner. This bill will address concerns about the impact of vehicle sanction on non-offending operators who have not themselves committed any offence. The bill will create the categories of “offending operator” and “non-offending operator”. The “non-offending operator” is the registered owner of the vehicle used in the offence but who was not the driver at the time of the offence.
The “offending operator” is the registered operator of the vehicle who also committed the driving offence. Vehicles used by non-offending operators will no longer be subject to roadside vehicle sanctions. Instead these vehicles will be subject to registration suspension but only after repeated violations. After a first offence, a warning notice will be sent to the non-offending operator by the Roads and Maritime Services, which will maintain a register. This notice will warn the non-offending operator that a person driving the vehicle was detected committing a relevant offence and that action may be taken to suspend the registration of the vehicle if it is used to commit further offences.
A second offence will lead to a notice of registration suspension if, on the balance of probabilities, the Roads and Maritime Services is satisfied that a registered owner of a vehicle has failed to use or manage the vehicle so as to effectively prevent repeated violations of the traffic law. The bill goes a long way to addressing a major scourge on our roads. It will provide for the visible marking of vehicles that have been subject to the sanction regime. One can only hope that this will shame the vehicle owners and reduce the social acceptability of high-range speeding and engaging in police pursuits. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr NATHAN REES (Toongabbie) [4.04 p.m.]: I lead for the Opposition on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 and indicate that we support the bill. The Opposition shares the concerns outlined by the member for Coogee on behalf of the Government about the scourge of street racing and high-speed shenanigans by these galoots in the best circumstances and cretins in the worst circumstances. One can only wonder what dribbles across the cortex of these idiots as they charge around the streets of New South Wales putting their lives and the lives of their passengers at risk.
More importantly, the lives of innocent bystanders going about their business are being put at risk by having one of these lunatics plough into them, which may result in serious injury or death. Who can forget the extraordinary tragedy at St Marys only a few short years ago when the car of an elderly couple was hit by one of these hoons and the elderly couple died. Governments in the Western world continue to struggle with how to curtail this culture and the commission of these offences. We need to be ever vigilant about this ongoing issue, without having the expectation that it will necessarily be eliminated.
I turn now to the specifics of the bill. The Opposition is concerned, as I am sure the Government is, about some of the unintended consequences of the bill—for example, the removal of numberplates from a vehicle not owned by the person who committed the offence. The former Labor Government also wrestled with these perennial problems for government. The wheel-clamping provisions in the bill are a commonsense approach to a difficult problem. Whilst the previous approach was well intentioned, it had many policing and traffic management implications.
The detention, impounding and forfeiture of vehicles and the confiscation of numberplates are also commonsense approaches. All members will have dealt with this issue in one form or another. At best it is a nuisance to people, at worst people can die. The bill makes specific provisions for high-range speed offences—that is, driving a vehicle at a speed more than 45 kilometres per hour over the designated speed limit. Proposed sections 218 and 218A make specific provision for additional sanctions to be imposed by a police officer. Under proposed section 218A (1) (a) and (b) police may:
(a) seize and take charge of the motor vehicle and cause it to be moved to a place determined by the Commissioner,
That is a particularly powerful provision—
(b) Immediately, or as soon as practicable afterwards, give or send the offending operator a notice (a motor vehicle production notice) requiring the offending operator to move or cause the vehicle to be moved to … a place specified in the notice no later than on the date and time specified in the notice …
These sensible provisions put the onus on the idiot rather than on police or the broader community to resolve in the event of a car being left behind by one of these galoots. The powers and duties relating to the seizure of motor vehicles and the removal of numberplates are very worthwhile. Under 218C (2) (a) a police officer may:
cause any locking device or other feature of the motor vehicle concerned that is impeding the seizure and movement of the motor vehicle to be removed, dismantled or neutralised and may, if the driver or any other person will not surrender the keys to the vehicle, start the vehicle by other means, and
(b) use or caused to be used such equipment and force as is necessary to remove number plates and remove or disable any device or thing impeding the removal of the number plates.
It is immediate, it is on the spot, it is actionable immediately, and it puts the onus on the offender. These are commonsense provisions for an issue that is difficult for governments to solve. I hope that the Government recognises that the Opposition is as well motivated as the Government in supporting this bill and continuing to combat the serious threat that is posed by a culture of speeding and the idiots who engage in it. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.10 p.m.]: The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to improve the way the existing vehicle sanctions scheme operates in practice and to enable vehicle sanctions to be imposed for the offences of high-range speeding and engaging in a police pursuit. By way of background, the 2005 Act created a vehicle sanctions regime for vehicles used to commit street racing and aggravated burnout offences, commonly known as car hoon offences. Sanctions can be imposed by the police at the roadside or by the courts upon conviction. My area, the great area of Tweed, is not immune to these acts on our roadways. In speaking about this bill, I pay tribute to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. Michael Gallacher, for introducing Eyewatch, which has been very successful.
Eyewatch enables people to report what they perceive as offences being committed in their local communities. As members know, I have been the regional chairperson of the great initiative Neighbourhood Watch for many years. One initiative we started a number of years ago, with the support of the Hon. Michael Gallacher, was Hoon Watch. When neighbours and residents hear skids on their roads or notice vehicles being driven at excessive speeds, usually late at night, they fill in a form, and that intelligence is conveyed to the local police for action. One specific case on Kirkwood Road comes to mind. A large number of residents filled in forms, which were duly conveyed to the hardworking men and women of our local police force. The police staked out the area at the approximate time that the offences were being committed and caught the offenders. While doing so, what they found in the back of an offender’s vehicle also solved 12 break and enters in the local Tweed area. Hoon Watch is a great tool.
I pride myself on trying to understand the many facets of government. On a number of occasions I have travelled with police in a highway patrol car. I usually go out on a Friday or Saturday night to observe the way the police work. In one case on Kennedy Drive I was in the back of the patrol car when a burnout occurred right in front of us. We were in an unmarked highway patrol car at the time. The police caught the offender and charged him, and within five to 10 minutes the hardworking police men and women had the offender’s vehicle on the back of a tow truck being taken away. As previous speakers said, burnouts put the community at risk of life and limb. The bill makes some major changes to the vehicle sanctions scheme. How does the new scheme differ from the current scheme? The bill includes police pursuits and high-range speeding as offences for which vehicle sanctions are imposed. It also creates numberplate confiscation as an alternative method to vehicle impounding.
The bill provides roadside vehicle sanctions for first offences for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders serve out the same length of sanction, regardless of how long the driving charge takes to get to court. Why are vehicle sanctions necessary? We already have tough penalties for speeding and police pursuits. Yes, there are significant penalties for these offences. Previous speakers referred to Skye’s Law, where the penalty includes up to three years’ imprisonment for the first offence and five years for the second offence. Also, high-range speeding offenders face immediate roadside licence suspension, six months’ licence suspension on conviction and fines in excess of $1,700. Yet the offending rate has remained relatively constant over the past few years for the offence of exceeding the speed limit by 45 kilometres an hour.
For example, in the 2011 calendar year police brought legal action against a staggering 3,079 drivers, an average of 257 per month. It is because of these drivers that the Government is acting. In the hands of these drivers a motor vehicle effectively becomes a dangerous weapon. Unlike the previous Government, we think these drivers represent as much of a threat to the community as do car hoons treating our roads like racetracks. We are acting to bring them under the same vehicle sanctions regime. Common sense tells us that if we reduce their access to a vehicle we reduce their ability to reoffend. Also, the consequences are more immediate in that the loss of the vehicle usually occurs at the roadside—unlike a fine or prison sentence, which sometimes seems a remote possibility in the heat of the moment.
Vehicle sanctions are also more public than driver sanctions. It is much harder to hide the fact that a vehicle has been impounded for three months or to explain away missing number plates or a prominent sticker on a car windscreen. That is most important, because the community has been asking for this for some time. My community has been asking me as the local representative and it has made representations to the local media on many occasions. Basically, this bill is giving police more powers. I have been present when the police have confiscated a car. I saw the look of horror and shame on the offender’s face. I saw people stop in the street and look. There was a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that our hardworking police were able to do their job and do it in a relatively short time frame.
As I said, it took no longer than 10 to 15 minutes to remove the vehicle. The police allowed the offender, who was a builder by trade, five minutes to get his tools out of the back of the truck. One of his last comments was, “What do I do for transport?” He should have thought about that. The offence occurred because he did a burnout in front of his girlfriend’s place after an argument. It was very silly indeed, and it could have had grave consequences for the people in our local area. Members have spoken briefly about wheel clamping. During a 12-month trial of wheel clamping, which ran from September 2008 to September 2009, only 12 vehicles were clamped. This compared with 219 vehicles that were impounded by the police at the roadside during the same period.
Wheel clamping is clearly not the sanction of choice for the police. While wheel clamping sounds good in theory, police told us that it did not work in practice. One problem with wheel clamping—the great member for Lismore will understand this—is a reliance on third-party contractors. There is a lack of clamping agents across all local area commands, particularly in non-metropolitan areas. I doubt whether there would be a wheel clamper in Lismore and I am fairly sure the Tweed does not have a wheel clamper. Heaven knows where we would find them. Numberplate confiscation overcomes this problem while providing an alternative sanction to impounding a vehicle. Numberplate confiscation prevents a vehicle from being legally driven on a road or road-related area. In that respect, it will have the same effect for the driver or a registered operator as impounding a vehicle, although it does not physically remove the vehicle from the offender’s possession. That is a good move. It gives flexibility.
As I said, I have been out with the police and every case is slightly different from the previous one. Some cases require the police to exercise discretionary powers: they are the professionals in the field. This bill is good legislation. The risk with numberplate confiscation is that the vehicle may be driven away. The bill provides permanent forfeiture of the vehicle for people who flout the law, and many are impervious to the law. During my recent attendance at the Tweed Heads courthouse I was amazed to see the number of drivers who, having had their licences confiscated for six months or so, left the courthouse, immediately got into their cars and attempted to drive down the road. The stupidity of some road users is deplorable: they put the community at grave risk. We must do everything in our power to support the police in their endeavours to prevent this type of behaviour. I commend the bill to the House.
Mrs BARBARA PERRY (Auburn) [4.20 p.m.]: The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 seeks to improve the current Act by introducing new sanctions for dangerous driving offences. The object of this bill is to amend the 2005 Act by repealing the provisions relating to the wheel clamping of vehicles, to expand the operation of the Act by enabling the imposition of sanctions in relation to certain high-range speed and police pursuit offences and to enable the confiscation of numberplates from motor vehicles as an additional sanction. The bill also contains amendments to the 2005 Act and other legislation of a related, consequential or savings and transitional nature. The bill focuses on sanctions for speeding 45 kilometres over the speed limit in non-variable speed zones with the exception of school zones and covers other offences such as involvement in high-speed chases.
To put this in context, Minister Gallacher in the other place stated that in 2011, 225,401 legal actions for speeding were commenced in New South Wales. That is quite staggering. Included in the statistic were 3,079 legal actions for exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres per hour. The Act relies on wheel clamping as a sanction following a trial in the Liverpool and Wollongong local area commands in late 2008. It was envisaged that this would replace the more expensive and administratively intense action of impounding vehicles and the need to move them to police or commercial facilities. While it was a good idea, in practice I accept that it had some issues. Once it was implemented across New South Wales regional areas had difficulties finding contractors to undertake the clamping.
This bill seeks to introduce an alternative to wheel clamping, that is, the removal and confiscation of numberplates as an alternative to impounding a vehicle. This is a far easier and quicker sanction for police to enforce and means that they will not have to arrange for towing, following up or accounting for unpaid towing and storage fees. Numberplates will be removed and a large sticker will be affixed to the windscreen. It will be the offenders’ responsibility to arrange and pay for the vehicle to be towed home or to another location where the vehicle can be parked legally. I note, however, that cars may still be parked in inappropriate places. This will have to be sorted out administratively. The Minister has recognised that a consequence of this bill may be an increase in the number of false numberplates and penalties have increased commensurately.
My electorate encompasses part of the Bankstown Local Area Command and in a couple of areas the illegal removal of numberplates was of great concern to local police and the community. The Minister noted that 137 vehicles were confiscated as a result of car hooning offences. Car hooning is appalling: it creates unnecessary noise and safety concerns for residents. Young people involved in such activities often do not understand the importance of their own safety and the safety of others. The removal of numberplates is a practical and effective measure to deal with offences such as car hooning. This measure will have an impact on police resourcing. I hope that it will free up more police to concentrate on their core business. If the bill has that effect, then it is good news for the people of New South Wales.
Mr STEPHEN BROMHEAD (Myall Lakes) [4.25 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. The object of the bill is to amend the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to repeal the provisions relating to wheel clamping of vehicles, to expand the operation of the Act by enabling the imposition of sanctions under that provision in relation to certain high-range speed and police pursuit offences and to enhance the operation of the Act by enabling the confiscation of numberplates from motor vehicles as an additional sanction. In 2008 the Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Car Hoons) Bill 2008 was introduced to strengthen sanctions relating to the detention, impounding and forfeiture of motor vehicles.
The bill was in response to a number of street racing incidents on our State roads that resulted in a number of casualties including the deaths of innocent members of the public. The Hon. Michael Gallacher, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, stated that wheel clamping did not save the police any time because police had to attend the address of the offender to ascertain whether the site would be suitable for accommodating a clamped vehicle. The trial showed that clamping was not an effective sanction. Since that time the figures for high-range speeding offences have remained steady. The Hon. Michael Gallacher stated that vehicle sanctions are supported by road safety stakeholders.
For example, at a 2009 road safety roundtable convened by the then Roads and Traffic Authority there was strong support for vehicle impounding and numberplate confiscation for high-range speeding, particularly for repeat offenders. This bill addresses an issue that was highlighted back in 2009 and one wonders why nothing happened at that time. Clearly this is an example of the inertia of the previous Government, its paralysis particularly during its last four years in government. Indeed, Rodney Cavalier described the former Government as the worst government in New South Wales history, and this is an example of it. Issues were highlighted at a roundtable but they were not addressed. This Government is addressing the issues.
When I was in the Police Force I was involved in a number of high-speed chases. I was stationed at Taree and often the highway patrol would see vehicles travelling at high speed on the Pacific Highway, signal for the drivers of those vehicles to stop and when they did not a high-speed police chase would ensue. On one occasion I was involved in an operation on the Pacific Highway at Kew. It was raining and we sought to stop a vehicle heading south of Kew. The vehicle we were pursuing reached a speed of 180 kilometres an hour. It overtook on double lines and travelled on the wrong side of the road with a three-year-old child bouncing around in the back seat like an astronaut without gravity.
We had to call off the chase because it was so dangerous. Ultimately the vehicle was stopped by police at Raymond Terrace. The fact that the vehicle was not involved in an accident had nothing to do with good management, it was just good luck. The standard of driving was alarming. The driver drove on the wrong side of the road over double lines. He also overtook on the left-hand side, on the verge of the Pacific Highway, darting in and out of traffic in an endeavour to evade the police. That is an example of what happens. As a lawyer I have represented people who have been the accused in high-speed police chases. When I read the police facts that were presented to court it was scary to see what some people would do to try to avoid apprehension. This legislation seeks to deter people from that sort of behaviour.
The main changes proposed in the bill are that police pursuits and high-range speeding will be included as offences for which vehicle sanctions should be imposed. The bill removes wheel clamping as a sanction because it did not work. Numberplate confiscation will be an alternative to vehicle impounding and roadside vehicle sanctions will be applied to first offences for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders receive the same length of sanction regardless of how long the driving charge takes to get to court. The bill removes the unutilised provision for court-imposed sanctions upon conviction for a first offence and applies roadside vehicle sanctions only to offences committed by a driver in his or her own vehicle. In that way parents, employers and friends will not be unfairly punished for the crimes of others.
The bill also limits the circumstances in which the Local Court can authorise the early release of impounded vehicles or confiscated numberplates so that hardship for others is the only ground for release. These sanctions are on top of already tough penalties for speeding and police pursuits. For example, under Skye’s law the penalty can include up to three years imprisonment for a first offence and five years imprisonment for a second offence. In spite of this, in 2011 there were 1,781 police pursuits, and 635 legal actions were commenced under Skye’s law, including 20 for second or subsequent offences. For high-range speeding offenders face an immediate roadside licence suspension and six months licence suspension on conviction and fines in excess of $1,700, yet the rate of offending has remained relatively consistent over the past few years for the offence of exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres per hour.
In the 2011 calendar year police brought legal action against a staggering 3,079 drivers, an average of 257 per month. It is because of these statistics that this Government is taking action. In those drivers’ hands a motor vehicle becomes, in effect, a dangerous weapon. Over the years I have explained to many young people that motor vehicles are killing machines. They are more than just a mode of transport. Young people in particular have to realise that a vehicle is a killing machine. In 2003 we started a traffic offenders program for the Manning-Great Lakes area and the anecdotal evidence has always been that males under the age of 25 commit more of these types of offences than other people. Males under 25 are disproportionately represented in the statistics.
In the first class of the Manning-Great Lakes traffic program there were 33 people who had been referred by the local courts at Taree, Forster and Gloucester, and 27 were males under the age of 25. Impounding their vehicle is the last thing that males under 25 want. It is like the graffiti law that we introduced and which has stood the test. One of the penalties that can be imposed by magistrates—it is a string to their bow; it is not compulsory—is the suspension of a driver’s licence. That is far worse for a male under 25 than a monetary penalty or some other penalty. I am sure that impounding their vehicles is a strong deterrent for males under 25. There is a strong need for this legislation. We are addressing the issues that have been highlighted by stakeholders, by the number of offences and the continuing disrespect for the law by many people. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr NICK LALICH (Cabramatta) [4.35 p.m.]: I speak on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. The objects of the bill are as follows: to repeal provisions of the existing Act relating to the wheel clamping of vehicles; to expand the operation of division 2 of part 5.5 by enabling the imposition of sanctions under that division in relation to certain high-range speed and pursuit offences; and to enhance operation of the Act by enabling the confiscation of numberplates. The Opposition does not oppose this bill. New South Wales Labor in government was committed to keeping our roads safe for all users and we remain so in opposition. We remain committed to the stamping out of all illegal racing on our public streets and we will continue to fight against all road offences that endanger the lives of ordinary citizens who are trying to get from point A to point B.
The streets are there to be shared and there is absolutely no place on our streets for any form of behaviour that can endanger the lives of others. Laws must be tough in this area as too many innocent lives have been lost already due to reckless, irresponsible and downright shameful behaviour on the roads we share. The existing legislation has a heavy focus on wheel clamping. I have had some discussions with police about wheel clamping and, as was said earlier, some of the local area commands do not have the equipment for wheel clamping and have to get private organisations and other people to do the job. Hanging around waiting for these wheel clampers to get to the scene takes a lot of police time. Another issue is that police cannot clamp car wheels willy-nilly wherever a car is pulled up, whether it be on highways or arterial roads.
If the vehicle is not removed within a reasonable time it can cause a bank-up of traffic and that makes the general public even angrier. Those were the main problems with wheel clamping. This amendment bill goes further and proposes the increased use of licence plate removal as a punitive method to discourage street racers from plying their trade and endangering the lives of the innocent. Unfortunately, in recent times there has been a glorification of street racing aimed at our youth with movies such as The Fast and the Furious and Initial D. However, they are movies and we are dealing with real life and real consequences. Street racing puts the lives of innocent drivers at risk as well as the lives of innocent pedestrians who may be in the vicinity of a street race. I am sure every member of this House feels a little bit emptier every time they hear or read about a fatality on our roads.
A few years ago in St Marys an elderly man and woman were coming home late one night, minding their own business, when two guys decided to race off at the lights on the Great Western Highway. The gentleman in question went across the road appropriately and did not see the two hoons racing towards him. One of them ploughed into him killing both him and his wife. All of us know or have heard of families that have lost sons and daughters or mums and dads through these tragic accidents on the roads, not necessarily through hooning. We all know the suffering and sadness the loss of a relative causes families for a long time afterwards.
As representatives of our communities we have a responsibility to strengthen appropriate laws that will help protect our communities, our families and our loved ones. The removal of licence plates is seen as a better deterrent in the fight against street racing and similar offences on our roads.
Police will have the power to demand the removal of licence plates on the spot or they can issue an order that requires the plates to be surrendered to police within five working days. Offenders who engage in this activity repeatedly and insist on endangering the lives of the innocent on our roads may have their vehicles seized or be required to surrender their vehicles at a subsequent date. Roads are no place for irresponsible and foolish behaviour. Our roads are no place for car hoons, street racing or any behaviour that puts the lives of others at risk. Over the years New South Wales has seen too many tragedies and too many road-related deaths and injuries. The New South Wales Labor Opposition will stand with the community in protecting our roads from illegal, moronic and dangerous behaviour. The Opposition does not oppose this bill.
Mr CHRIS PATTERSON (Camden) [4.40 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012, which seeks to make key improvements to the current vehicle sanctions scheme, which to date has been designed primarily to target car hoon offences. Car hoon offences in my electorate are regarded as extremely serious. Number plate confiscation is an alternative vehicle sanction option for police. There has been extensive consultation with agencies such as Police and Emergency Services, the NSW Police Force, Transport, Roads and Attorney General, which have all contributed vast knowledge to and experience in dealing with dangerous drivers and driving. Those agencies are involved in what results from dangerous driving each and every day. If this bill goes some way towards improving safety on our roads for all by creating a deterrent we have achieved what we set out to do.
I am sure that this bill will act as a deterrent to those ratbags who believe that car hooning is acceptable. I am sure all members in this House have either experienced or witnessed dangerous driver behaviour or been approached by their constituents about this problem. Some drivers on our roads believe that speeding is the norm and those who speed consider themselves invincible and above the law. It is time that those imbeciles were made accountable for damage to property, injuries incurred to innocent motorists, pedestrians and police, and the potential loss of life as a result of drivers engaging in police pursuits or car hooning. They should realise the full extent of their actions on the community as a whole.
Let us not forget 19-month-old Skye Sassine, who was killed on the F5 at Ingleburn on New Year’s Eve in 2009 when two alleged robbers engaged in a police pursuit. When the Crimes Amendment (Police Pursuits) Act 2010 was debated the then Leader of the Opposition—our current Premier—supported the former Labor Government’s bill and what is now known as Skye’s Law but he said that a lot more had to be done. He referred to the agreement made by the then shadow Minister for Police—our current Minister for Police and Emergency Services, the Hon. Michael Gallacher—to enforce car confiscations for those found guilty of engaging in a pursuit. The amendments being introduced today by this Government will go further than anything implemented by the former Government to provide a deterrent and to punish those who do not obey the law.
For reasons best to known to them, offenders never seem to understand that they put their lives and the lives of other people on the road in danger and sometimes the outcome is tragic. Camden and its surrounds have many rural roads. Unfortunately, some drivers on those roads think they have a right to use those roads as though they are on a racetrack. The unwanted noise in local streets drives the community mad. That, coupled with the potential risk to public safety and property means it is paramount for members to support this bill. This Government is addressing the issue with tougher penalties. I hope that we will get the message through to offenders that speeding is not acceptable and that they will receive severe punishment if they are caught.
Young drivers usually take pride in their vehicles and they do not believe that their cars can and will be taken from them or their numberplates confiscated as a form of punishment for their recklessness and disregard for others. It is not until their vehicles are not available that they understand that public transport and relying on lifts from family and friends will be their only form of transport for months. When their cars or numberplates are taken from them quite often that is the only deterrent that these imbeciles understand and comprehend and they then realise the ramifications of their stupidity. It is difficult to understand why, as a Government, we have to continue to introduce further punishment for the crime of speeding when education, signage and commonsense are not adhered to or taken notice of. Some drivers choose to ignore the law and to make their own rules. In Camden people have had enough of speeding and bad drivers on their local streets. It is hoped that either vehicle impounding or numberplate confiscation will help to serve as a deterrent.
The sanction period will now be fixed at three months, which will bring into line current inconsistencies of impounding a vehicle until a driving offence is heard in court, which could result in a lesser time for the vehicle to be impounded. Courts will still be able to determine whether impounding a vehicle will create extreme hardship. The courts can then impose a further impounding of vehicles or confiscation of numberplates as opposed to forfeiting the vehicle to the Crown. This Government is serious about addressing the problem of speeding and dangerous driving on our roads, which is what the public expect and support. The costly results to our society for accidents due to dangerous driving is insurmountable, whether it is damage to cars or property, death, or ongoing treatment for survivors of vehicle accidents for many years after the event. This bill aims to continue to address the problem. In time these inconsiderate drivers might understand that their actions are no longer tolerated. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr GREG APLIN (Albury) [4.48 p.m.]: I do not think that any word is more Australian than the word “hoon”. It brings to mind a range of behaviours, generally bad, involving idiots in cars doing donuts, wheelies, burnouts or racing on public streets. Curiously, the origin of the term “hoon” is unknown. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a hoon is a lout or hooligan, especially a young man who drives recklessly. The word “hoon” is both a noun and a verb, for example, “to hoon”. However, I am fairly confident it is not onomatopoeic although it suggests a doppler effect when pronounced with vigour. The word first shows up in the 1930s, in both Australia and New Zealand. We know what it means but it cannot be pinned down fully and finally. The same could be said of legislative attempts to place controls on hoon behaviour. The laws vary in detail and the nature of sanctions across the nation.
New South Wales has seen amendments to the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 and to the bill before the House. Previous amendments were built around the sanction of wheel clamping. It now appears that the trials of this tactic have not been particularly successful. Worse, it is a time-consuming exercise for police officers. The existing Act imposes strong penalties, including both immediate roadside licence suspension and fines of up to $3,300. Yet these driving offences continue. Are the penalties insufficient? Will our communities be any safer if we ramp up the penalties further? In a sense, we are trying to capture youth, or at least youthful behaviour, in a form of words. These words must be successful both at gaining widespread attention and understanding and in imposing penalties or deterrents that have meaning to the target audience.
The Urban Dictionary conveniently lays out a set of behaviours that are commonly understood as hoon acts. The dictionary defines “hoon” as somebody who engages in the following activities whilst in control of a motor vehicle: high speed driving, often greater than 40 kilometres per hour over the speed limit; the deliberate loss of traction of one or more wheels; the deliberate loss of control of a vehicle, better known as “drifting”; participating in illegal or drag racing; and the performance of other acts such as burnouts, donuts, fishtails. All members will have local stories about hoon behaviour in their towns and cities. We know it when we see it. When Bronson Waldner was caught red-handed by police doing burnouts near the Albury racecourse earlier this month he said, “What can I say. I’m a boy and a P-plater”. An article published in the Border Mail states:
A police vehicle blocked his path from escaping from Hoffman Road where oil was splattered on the roadway where the burnouts were being performed.
“Waldner’s antics led to his VS Commodore utility being confiscated for three months and an appearance in Albury Local Court …” The 19-year-old pleaded guilty to an aggravated burnout, was fined $800 and lost his licence for 12 months.
On being informed by police that he would be charged with ‘aggravated burnout’, Waldner reportedly said that was a bit harsh.
This story encapsulates the elements of the problem: youth, a car, thrills, ignorance of the law and its penalties and a sense of being dealt with unfairly by the authorities. In another incident a driver apprehended after doing a large burnout on the street told police he had only been intending to move his car so he could mow his lawn. The driver was not licensed and was driving an unregistered vehicle for the unlawful burnout. This is the hoon trifecta. The factors that lead to such behaviour will not disappear overnight. The best we can aim for is to separate hoons from their vehicles. This gives offenders an opportunity to reflect on their behaviour and its potential consequences for them and for others. Importantly, it offers improved safety to bystanders and others who use the roads.
Under this bill police will have power to enforce a new regime of sanctions. In the case of a first offence by an offending operator police may impound the vehicle or confiscate its numberplates. The sanction will last for three months. The impounded vehicle will be kept at a police holding yard, while confiscated numberplates will be taken by the police to the offices of Roads and Maritime Services for keeping. This is a genuine improvement on the current scheme, whereby the vehicle is impounded until the driving charge is determined by a court, which could take much more than three months in total. The end result was inconsistency in sanctions for similar offences. This bill pulls the inconsistencies back into line.
Should the court find the driver guilty, the vehicle may be forfeited to the Crown. As is currently the practice, demonstration of extreme hardship—for example, to the offender’s family—may lead the court instead to apply an exception to the period of impounding or numberplate confiscation. Numberplate confiscation as a sanction involves several steps. It will be important that drivers understand how this will work. When a driver is stopped by the police on the basis of alleged hoon behaviour the vehicle will initially be parked in the most convenient legal street location at that time. Police will remove the vehicle’s numberplates and attach to the vehicle a notice of numberplate confiscation.
If the court orders release of the plates they will be available for collection after five business days. Otherwise drivers can expect to lose the plates for three months, as I have noted. Without its plates the vehicle cannot be driven on a road or in a road-related area. The offender or owner remains responsible for the inert vehicle. There is no entitlement, on their part, to ask or demand that police move or tow the vehicle away. Drivers must therefore ensure that the vehicle is in a location where it may be parked legally, or otherwise have the vehicle towed home. If the offender or owner drives a vehicle subject to a numberplate confiscation, the vehicle may be permanently forfeited to the Crown.
The bill extends the list of offences that will lead to vehicle impounding or confiscation of plates. Speeding by more than 45 kilometres an hour and behaviour resulting in police pursuit are now relevant offences for the vehicle sanctions scheme. According to the Minister, 137 vehicles were confiscated for car hoon offences last year. I suspect that we will see higher figures for numberplate confiscations because of the ease of application of this sanction. In the end we are dealing with behaviour that has its genesis in youthful exuberance or ageing stupidity. This bill may help to save these people from the painful consequences of their actions, while keeping the rest of the community a little safer. I support the bill.
Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS (Clarence) [4.55 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 which makes a number of important changes to the existing vehicle sanctions management in our roads legislation. Vehicle sanctions are very important because they impose a direct and immediate impact on those who commit serious driving offences. That is what the public wants and this Government listens to the people Too many people die on our roads as a result of accidents for us to have them die as a result of hoons showing off to their mates or responding to high levels of testosterone. If one does the crime then one must do the time. Fines, loss of demerit points, and even loss of one’s licence are appropriate penalties and will make most normal drivers stop their offending behaviour. However, when it comes to the street racers, those who engage police in pursuits, drivers who exceed the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres an hour and thereby put our police and community at risk, a more appropriate penalty would be the loss of access to their vehicle. That will deter them.
To its credit the former Government introduced vehicle impounding for so-called hoon offences committed by those who were intent on street racing and performing aggravated burnouts. However, while the intention was good, the legislation was bad and ineffective. To deal with situations where people are caught hooning in someone else’s car the current regime has an elaborate system of warning notices to the owner followed by possible impounding if someone is convicted of a second offence in his or her vehicle. It is too complicated to penalise the hoons. We need more effective measures that can be implemented more quickly. How could this ever work? If the owner is not the offender how is the court meant to decide whether to confiscate the car? The owner in that case is not even a party to the proceedings.
The Government is introducing a more sensible and pragmatic method for dealing with cases where offences are repeatedly committed in someone else’s vehicle. Roads and Maritime Services already has an administrative scheme whereby owners who fail to exercise proper control over others using their vehicles can be asked to show cause why their vehicle should not be deregistered. This Government’s reforms also remove from the legislation provisions relating to another failed part of the previous Government’s measures—the trial of wheel clamping as a substitute for vehicle impounding.
Impounding vehicles can create an administrative nightmare for police. They have to arrange to have the vehicle towed to an impounding yard and that takes them away from their operational duties, which means fewer police on the beat. They must get both the towing and impounding fees back from the offender, who, depending on the state of the vehicle, may be in no hurry to settle this debt. While clamping the offender’s car probably seemed like a good idea at the time, it had drawbacks. It meant that clamping agents had to be contracted and that police had to be available to oversee the clamping and to protect the clamping agents from possibly irate car hoons. During the trial, which was conducted in Liverpool and Wollongong local area commands, it also became apparent that finding a place to leave the clamped vehicle safely and without inconveniencing neighbours could also be a challenge.
At the end of the day it is not surprising that during the 12-month wheel clamping trial a total of 12 hoon cars were clamped. This compared with 219 vehicles impounded across the State over that same period. Even though impounding vehicles can cause police inconvenience and expense, it serves a purpose and in some cases will still be undertaken by police. This bill gives them another roadside option; that is, numberplate removal. This alternative sanction will reduce police officers’ workload and enable them to get back to enforcing the law. Police officers remove the numberplates at the roadside and place a large confiscation notification sticker on the front windscreen, and that is it.
It will be the driver’s responsibility and not the responsibility of the police to arrange for the vehicle to be towed and to pay for that towing. This is not a harsh requirement because, first, the offender has just committed a serious traffic offence and, second, the same responsibility falls on anyone whose car breaks down on a motorway and who has not committed an offence. Once the number plates are removed, police and the Roads and Maritime Services will then have five business days to process the plates and have them ready for collection in the event of a court order to return them. If there is no such order the plates will be retained by the Roads and Maritime Services for a period of three months.
The bill introduces a range of new offences to ensure that offenders whose plates have been confiscated are not tempted to drive around without numberplates or to put false or substituted plates on their motor vehicles. The community expects the penalties for these offences to be strong, and they are, including permanent confiscation of the vehicle. This should send a message to anyone who is tempted to drive without a numberplate or to use a false numberplate. Another change is that the sanctions of removing and impounding numberplates will be applied only to vehicles that are being driven or ridden by their owners at the time that the offence is committed. This simplifies procedures for both roadside police and the courts. It will not be necessary to ascertain whether the owner’s vehicle has previously been used for a relevant offence or whether the owner has previously been warned about the misuse of his or her vehicle. Those matters will now be carried out within the Roads and Maritime Services administrative scheme.
The vehicle sanctions scheme is confined to so-called “hoon” offences. The bill will extend the scheme to two other very serious traffic offences: engaging police in a pursuit—known as Skye’s Law—and high-range speeding. This is a logical extension of the scheme and these two offences are obvious inclusions for vehicle sanctions. Whilst there may be widespread support to extend the vehicle sanctions to include high-range drink-driving or other dangerous driving offences, we should proceed with prudence. The Ministers have sensibly started with offences that are seen on the nightly news—offences about which the public is outraged. The good news for the public is that the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 will capture many thousands of new offenders and will help to save lives on our streets.
The opportunity to extend the bill will remain open to the Parliament. After a year or so of the implementation of the sanctions, if numberplate removal proves to be a success and not unduly burdensome on Roads and Maritime Services and the NSW Police Force, it could then be extended to other offences. But we should get it right first. I am confident that the measures introduced in this bill will be a strong and effective response to dangerous driving practices. I will feel a little safer on the roads when the scheme comes into action. I commend the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 to the House.
Mr ANDREW GEE (Orange) [5.02 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. Street racing and burnout offences affect not only metropolitan areas but also regional New South Wales and that is why this bill is so important for residents across New South Wales. There are a number of salient features of the bill to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. Firstly, the bill enables police to remove and confiscate numberplates as an alternative to impounding a vehicle. This will be quicker for police and it will be cheaper as there are no storage or towing costs. The bill will release police to undertake other badly needed duties across their commands. It will be cost-effective and practical.
Nowhere is the need for police to be back out on the street greater than in Wellington. The member for Dubbo knows this because he lives just up the road from Wellington. A week or two ago the Attorney General was in Wellington opening the audiovisual link between Wellington courthouse and Wellington Correctional Centre. Prisoners will appear on videolink, which will reduce the need for police to babysit them at the courthouse. The police have been crying out for this facility for years. Rather than babysitting prisoners at the Wellington courthouse they will be released back on the street where they are needed. This initiative will be welcomed by police across New South Wales.
The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 draws a distinction between an offending operator and a non-offending operator. An offending operator is the offending driver who is also the owner; the non-offending operator is the registered owner who is not the offender. The bill provides that for a first offence for an offending operator the vehicle may be impounded or the numberplates can be confiscated for a three-month period. Where the numberplates are confiscated the police will deliver them to Roads and Maritime Services which will hold them for the requisite period. The three-month sanction period will apply, whether the matter is dealt with by way of penalty notice or by way of court attendance.
As the Minister for Police has pointed out, for second offences the likely outcome will be impounding of the vehicle rather than the confiscation of the plates. Once the car has had its numberplates removed it cannot be driven on a road. It is the offender’s responsibility to have the vehicle removed and taken off the side of the road. The offender’s car will have a plate confiscation notification placed on the windscreen. It will be a large A4-size notice that is designed to ensure there can be no question about the vehicle subsequently being driven inadvertently. To provide some added teeth to this new regime proposed section 218F refers to a number of offences. Firstly, it provides:
(1) A person must not, without lawful excuse, operate a motor vehicle on a road during a number plate confiscation period applying to the motor vehicle.
The bill also provides:
(2) A person must not, without lawful excuse, remove, tamper with or modify a number plate confiscation notice attached to a motor vehicle during a number plate confiscation period applying to the motor vehicle.
The bill further provides:
(3) A person must not, without lawful excuse, operate a motor vehicle on a road during a number plate confiscation period applying to the motor vehicle while any of the following is affixed to the vehicle:
(a) a number plate issued (whether or not in respect of the registration of that particular vehicle) under a law in force in New South Wales or any other State or Territory,
(b) an altered number plate issued under such a law,
(c) a number plate likely to be mistaken for, or resembling, such a number plate.
Proposed section 218F(4) provides:
(4) A person must not operate a motor vehicle on a road with a number plate confiscation notice, or thing resembling such a notice, attached to the vehicle when the vehicle is not the subject of such a notice.
It is quite a detailed regime. Another highlight is new section 228 which provides for search warrants. Proposed section 228(1) provides:
(1) A police officer may apply to an authorised officer for a search warrant if the police officer has reasonable grounds for believing that there is or, within 72 hours, will be on any premises a motor vehicle that has been operated as referred to in section 218 or in relation to which number plates have been, or are being, used in contravention of section 218F.
Proposed section 228(2) provides:
(2) An authorised officer to whom such an application is made may, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for doing so, issue a search warrant authorising a police officer named in the warrant:
(a) to enter the premises …
Those new powers of search and entry will be welcomed by police officers. Proposed section 219 deals with forfeiture of vehicles to the Crown and proposed section 219(1) provides:
(1) A motor vehicle used in connection with a sanctionable offence that is a second or subsequent offence by the offending operator under the provision concerned within a 5 year period is, by the finding of guilt by the court, forfeited to the Crown.
Proposed section 219 (2) provides:
A motor vehicle used in connection with an offence under section 281F (a number plate offence) is, by the finding of guilt by the court, forfeited to the Crown unless already forfeited under section 281E or the court otherwise directs under section 219A.
No doubt the police will welcome those provisions. Non-offending operators will not be subject to roadside vehicle sanctions but will be subject to vehicle registration suspension. That regime will include a warning notice being sent and the registration of a vehicle may be suspended for up to three months for any further offence. The member for Drummoyne is very excited about this legislation, which will be welcomed not only by police but also by people across New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr TROY GRANT (Dubbo—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.10 p.m.]: I thank the members representing the electorates of Drummoyne and Tamworth for their indulgence in allowing me to make a brief contribution on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. I do not propose to speak about the details of the bill because previous speakers, such as the member for Albury, have articulated them so well. I fully endorse the contribution made by the member for Albury in this debate. I also acknowledge and support the comments made by the member for Toongabbie.
For the constituents of my electorate this is a very real issue. On Friday 27 April last William Perrott died at the scene of a motor vehicle incident. His death is now the subject of a coronial investigation. His 19-year-old passenger remains in a Sydney hospital in an extremely serious condition and the 20-year-old driver of the second vehicle remains on life support. This accident has rocked the Dubbo community. Having served as a police officer for 22 years, I commend the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Attorney General for introducing this improved legislation to deal with, as described by the member for Toongabbie, a perplexing and difficult issue for police, as well as for those charged with enforcing road safety and preventing this type of behaviour that is undertaken by those who defy and ignore road safety messages and warnings.
The member for Albury spoke about the influence of movies, such as Fast and Furious, that glorify this type of driving. In computer games such as Grand Theft Auto the consequences of driving behaviour vibrates through one’s hand controls. Indications are that the terrible accident at Dubbo last week resulted from this type of driving. As I said, its ramifications have vibrated across our community. The improved logistical and administrative advantages in this amended legislation will go a long way to assisting police in deterring this type of behaviour by drivers, many of whom are young and inexperienced, and, hopefully, prevent other families suffering. In my 22 years of policing I attended the scene of far too many fatal accidents. When I confiscated vehicles I would ask drivers why they had committed this type of offence and far too often they had no rational answer. This amendment bill will go a significant way to addressing this issue but more needs to be done. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JOHN SIDOTI (Drummoyne) [5.14 p.m.]: I commend the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 to the House. I commend any legislation that aims to make our roads safer and protects people from the dangerous actions of a few, and I support any measure to introduce harsher penalties as a deterrent to dangerous driving. I also believe it is the responsibility of government to ensure that offenders are dealt with harshly. Despite attempts by previous governments, figures show that no matter what penalties are handed out—loss of licence or a hefty fine—many motorists ignore speed limits. Speeding can result in death.
Speeding remains the biggest killer on New South Wales roads. It is a factor in over 40 per cent of road fatalities—an average of 177 people die each year in speed-related crashes in New South Wales—and more than 4,200 are injured in speed-related accidents annually. Between 2005 and 2009 speeding was the cause of death in 886 cases. But the cost of speeding is not just a human one; speed-related crashes cost the community around $1.7 billion annually. Community costs include factors such as emergency services, hospital and healthcare services and loss of productivity in the workplace. It is time to get tough. Currently, tough penalties include immediate roadside licence suspension and fines of up to $3,300, but speed-related fatalities and legal actions for exceeding the speed limit remain relatively constant.
The bill proposes to deal harshly with high-range speeding—that is, exceeding 45 kilometres above the speed limit—and police pursuit offences are to be included as relevant offences under the vehicle sanctions scheme. In a major expansion of the car confiscation scheme, owners could lose their car or numberplates for three months should they be involved in a police pursuit, exceed the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres or be caught car hooning. If a driver attempts to flee police in their car, they will immediately lose their licence for three months. If they are caught again for the same offence their licence will be revoked forever. It is tough legislation, and it needs to be.
Under the bill police will be able to remove and confiscate numberplates as an alternative option to impounding a vehicle. This will automatically render the vehicle incapable of being legally driven on a road. It has the same effect as vehicle impounding without removing the vehicle from the owner’s possession. In 2011, 137 vehicles were impounded for hoon-related offences. Numberplate confiscation will offer police a cost-effective and practical alternative to vehicle impounding. It is immediate and it guarantees that these hoons are off the road and no longer a danger to the community. The proposed amendments introduce a distinction in the way a vehicle sanction is imposed and depends on whether the offender is the registered operator of the vehicle.
The bill proposes that offending operators will face roadside vehicle sanctions and vehicle impoundment. In recent weeks we have heard horror stories about speeding trucks. Companies that deliberately tamper with speed limiters do so at the expense of innocent motorists. We have heard the shocking reports of fatalities involving trucks. Lives have been lost. I commend the O’Farrell Government for putting rogue drivers and operators on notice for tampering with speed limiters. Such practices will not be tolerated. Trucks driving in excess of 100 kilometres per hour are a menace to other road users. Speed limiters have been put into vehicles for a reason, that is, to make our roads safer. They are not there as window-dressing, and the Government will not tolerate their abuse.
We will not allow loopholes in the law to place innocent motorists and their passengers at risk. This legislation is one way of overcoming those loopholes. In my electorate of Drummoyne there are many roads that attract hoons car racing late at night, disturbing neighbourhoods and creating a public menace. Great North Road in Five Dock is one such road, particularly late at night, as is Burwood Road in Concord. Both of these roads are busy during the day and they often attract hoons at night. The provisions in this legislation will enable the police to get these hoons off the road immediately by on-the-spot confiscation of numberplates.
The bill recognises that deterrents need to be put into law to convince motorists to slow down. According to the State Debt Recovery Office, there were 302 camera-detected high-range speeding offences in the 2010-11 financial year. Despite penalties including fines of up to $3,300, the incidence of these infringements remains constant. Unfortunately, camera-detected offences cannot be subjected to numberplate confiscation because the offender has not been spoken to by police. Those camera-detected offences will be subjected to normal administrative processes, firstly, to identify the driver of the vehicle at the time of the offence and then to serve the appropriate penalty notice.
Provisions in the legislation will ensure that vehicle sanctions will apply to motorists where a lower speed limit applies. This is relevant particularly to P-plate drivers. If a lower speed limit has been exceeded by 45 kilometres by a P-plate driver who is limited to driving at a maximum of 90 kilometres an hour, that person will be subject to numberplate confiscation. The Government is not targeting young drivers; it is attempting to reduce the road toll and to put in place measures that are a greater deterrent to motorists who flout the law and choose to speed at high range. In debating this legislation, I point out the provisions in this bill relating to police pursuits because, as members would be aware, these often result in fatalities.
In 2010 the Liberal-Nationals Coalition advocated what has become known as “Skye’s law”. It is named so because of little Skye Sassine who was the innocent victim of a crash that occurred during a police pursuit of two armed robbers. Skye’s law, or section 51B of the Crimes Act, introduced tougher penalties for endeavouring to avoid police by engaging in a high-risk pursuit. It stipulated that offenders would face three years’ imprisonment for a first offence and up to five years for a second offence, regardless of whether a crash occurred. The only way to deal with the growing number of fatalities and accidents on our roads is to pass laws such as this bill, which will act as a further deterrent to would-be offenders. I commend this bill to the House.
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON (Tamworth) [5.22 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012, which amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to improve the way the existing vehicle sanctions scheme operates in practice and to enable vehicle sanctions to be imposed for the offences of high-range speeding and engaging in a police pursuit. I support this bill because it introduces common sense to the penalty system to drive down high-range speeding and foolhardy driving on our roads. We know all too well that when people get behind the wheel of a vehicle there are many distractions. The driver may be talking with passengers in the car, thinking about something or listening to the radio, and often starts to speed without noticing, putting the vehicle’s occupants in a dangerous position.
On top of that, high-range speeding often leads to crashes and, sadly, fatalities. We need harsher penalties for speeding offences, illegal drag racing and street racing and generally making our roads unsafe. It is dangerous enough on the roads today when people are going about their everyday business without having some idiot getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and pretending he is playing a video game. Not only do these drivers put their own lives at risk; they also put those around them at risk. Often we hear about crashes where innocent people have been hurt or killed as a result of the dangerous, reckless driving of some idiot behind the wheel. They have simply ruined a family’s life. Whenever I talk about road safety and getting behind the wheel, I always say that passengers in a vehicle are putting their lives in the driver’s hands. Members should think about that. They should think about how they would protect their family, their partner, their children. The same applies to passengers in a vehicle; their lives are in the driver’s hands.
We need to be conscious of the fact that we should drive safely. Drivers need to be aware of not only their driving but also their surroundings and what other drivers are doing. They need to be alert and sharp and, if possible, anticipate what is coming. We know that some people who get behind the wheel of a vehicle treat it like a video game. A number of roads in the Tamworth electorate are used frequently for illegal street dragging and racing. I will not name them but the police do a sensational job in clamping down on some of these areas. I thank the Oxley Local Area Command and the highway patrol in the Tamworth electorate for doing sensational work in preventing serious accidents and death by stopping some of these hoons from getting behind the wheel and drag racing. Everybody knows that in a country town it is fashionable to do a drag down the main street. For example, the main street in Tamworth is Peel Street. What do people do? They do a “peely”. What is the main street in Wagga Wagga?
Mr Daryl Maguire: Baylis Street, where they do a lap.
Mr KEVIN ANDERSON: No doubt in the great town of Wagga Wagga they do a Baylis lap. Young people across our great State do a lap or drag down the main street. The Government is encouraging drivers to stop and think before they get in a car and put their foot down; common sense is being brought into play. When we were elected in March last year we said that common sense would be a key platform in introducing and changing laws to make it much easier for police to operate and clamp down on crime. The Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill introduces common sense.
The bill includes police pursuits and high-range speeding as offences for which vehicle sanctions will be imposed. It creates numberplate confiscation as an alternative to vehicle impounding, which will save money. Instead of having to impound a vehicle, the police will simply confiscate the numberplates. A car without numberplates cannot be used on our roads. The bill provides for roadside vehicle sanctions to be applied for the first offence for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders serve the same length of sanction, regardless of how long the driving charge takes to get to court. Also, the bill limits the circumstances in which the Local Court will authorise the early release of impounded vehicles or confiscated numberplates so that hardship for others is the only ground for release.
That means that a person driving another person’s vehicle should be the one who cops the full brunt of the law; that person should be the one who is fined or the one who is jailed for driving recklessly, causing a crash and injuring someone. The owner of the vehicle should be able to drive the vehicle, and the person behind the wheel who committed the offence should cop the full brunt of the law. The Road Transport (General) Act 2005 created a vehicle sanctions regime for vehicles used to commit street racing and aggravated burnout offences, commonly known as car hoon offences.
Sanctions can be imposed by the police at the roadside or by the courts upon conviction. We need to clean up our streets and to remember that road safety is paramount. When these young drivers for the first time get in vehicles with their L-plates, then their green Ps and red Ps and then their full licence, they must learn that a vehicle is a weapon. It is not a video game where if they suddenly have a crash they just hit reset and start over again. It is life, it is dangerous and it can have a devastating impact when they get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive dangerously.
I have already started to teach my 13-year-old son how to handle a car properly on private property and farms. In this way, young people learn to appreciate the power of motor vehicles and gain an understanding of the capabilities of vehicles. It teaches young people about responsible driving. The Tamworth electorate has a number of good driving programs. Joblink Plus has a driver training and mentoring program in which experienced drivers volunteer their time to show young drivers how to handle vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. Those organisations should be commended. This common sense approach is necessary to clamp down on hoons, who must learn that if they engage in this type of irresponsible behaviour the police will remove them from the road. I firmly believe our roads will then be much safer because the irresponsible drivers are dangerous. I commend the bill to the House.
Mrs TANYA DAVIES (Mulgoa) [5.31 p.m.]: I speak in support of the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. This bill has very personal and tragic relevance to my electorate of Mulgoa. As other members have alluded to, on 29 July 2007 Alan and Judith Howle were suddenly and brutally taken from our world. After only days earlier celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary and 15 days before the crash Mr Howle celebrating his seventy-first birthday the couple were wiped out in an instant in what appeared to be a street-racing event just minutes from their home in St Marys.
The tragedy was reported not only locally but in the Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Catholic News and the Adelaide Advertiser, on the ABC, ninemsn and drive.com and as far afield as Perth and it generated a surge in the community’s demand for tougher penalties against convicted hoon drivers. In the early part of that month in 2007 at the St Marys Band Club Mr and Mrs Howle—parents of seven, grandparents of 15—dined together with their family to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The Howles were pillars of our community. They had lived in St Marys for decades, their children had attended our local schools and Mr Howle was president of the St Mary’s Band Club, which sadly overlooks the intersection where they were killed. They were dedicated community volunteers at their local Catholic Church and had raised money to build a youth centre, which operates five days a week. They were a devoted, loving couple, who were rarely apart from one another.
But on Sunday evening 29 July 2007 they were killed just minutes from their home when their car was struck by two other cars on the Great Western Highway at the corner of Charles Hackett Drive, St Marys. At the time police suspected that the vehicles were involved in an illegal street race. Mr Howle was thrown from the car and was found deceased on the road and Mrs Howle, the driver, was left dying in the wreckage. A fire truck crew that was waiting for the lights to turn green at this intersection where the smash occurred was able to spring immediately into action but, sadly, they were unable to save Mrs Howle’s life. In July 2007 Father Bob Bossini from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, St Marys, said the Howles, who had been at mass six hours before they died, were inseparable. He said:
If there is any relief in it, both died together.
Soon after the deaths of Alan and Judith Howle, Magistrate Anthony Spence of Bankstown Local Court called for tougher penalties against street racing when sentencing two 17-year-olds for street racing. In sentencing these two 17-year-olds he said:
They [Alan and Judith Howle] were killed because two people took the opportunity to race on the Great Western Highway.
The drivers of the two Commodores that slammed into the Howles’ vehicle on that fateful night were Robert James Borkowski aged 38 and Adam McDonald aged 29. The court heard that the force of the crash impact shut off power to the vehicle’s speedometer, freezing it at 130 kilometres an hour in a 60 kilometre speed zone. In 2007 the children of Alan and Judith Howle began to lead a growing chorus calling for tougher laws against hoons convicted of street racing. For the sake of the Howle family and every other family that has been devastated by the selfish and dangerous actions of hoon drivers I support the bill. Just last Friday I met one of their daughters, Jennifer Pronesti, and spoke with her about the impact of this street-racing incident on the family. She very graciously sent me a copy of the victim impact statement that the seven children prepared for the court process. The seven children who are now without a mum and dad are Mark Howle, Phillip Howle, Alana White, David Howle, Jennifer Pronesti, Deborah Tuma and Cathryn Przbyla. I would like to read onto the parliamentary record a small extract from their victim impact statement to demonstrate the impact and devastation caused by the crazy, incomprehensible behaviour that some people choose to demonstrate on our roads. It states:
The sickening slow motion feeling that encumbers you upon hearing that both your parents could be dead, to having to identify them in the morgue—their faces etched in your brain like a reminder of a bad dream you just can’t wake up from. I remember sitting in the morgue, hoping someone had stolen their car—that this wasn’t ever happening to our family, how would we all cope!
A major part of all of us died the night of 29th July 2007, that cold, cold night changed us all.
We are a very close family, none of us flew too far from the nest. We all chose to stay as close to them as possible, knowing we really couldn’t establish our own life or families without them. We needed them. They were like the foundation of our houses, our hearts and our lives. We have been crushed to the core, our lives will never be the same.
In the back of our minds we all expect that one day we will have to bury our parents. If they get sick you get the opportunity to look after them and care for them, you also get to thank them for being amazing parents. When they are killed in a senseless act of pure stupidity you don’t get to say goodbye. You don’t get to tell them that you love them and always will. The need to be with our parents as they were dying was taken away from us.
There are people to blame for our pain but for them there will be closure, an ending date [for they will one day leave jail]. For us—we will spend our lives without them, we have a life sentence over our head.
One other very sad fact of this case is that just moments after the actual accident, the daughter of Mrs Jennifer Pronesti, the lady I spoke to in my electorate office last week, saw the accident at Charles Hackett Drive, St Marys. She rang her mother and said, “There’s been a terrible accident. It actually looks like our grandparents’ car is involved.” The grand-daughter actually saw the devastation that has impacted upon this family. Another sad aspect to this incident—and we have heard from other members that incidents like this happen in many electorates around the State—is that there are no winners.
The two gentlemen who are now in jail have to live with the devastation they have caused—seven children now do not have a mum and dad; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have lost their grandparents and great-grandparents. A third individual was to be sentenced in relation to this incident. Very regrettably he committed suicide on the day of his sentencing. He left behind two young children. Even more devastating is that not only Mr and Mrs Howle but many of their children, the perpetrators—the drivers in this incident—and the two fatherless children all live in my electorate. I was completely floored when I realised that and how devastating such an incident can be to a community.
The bill amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to improve the way that the existing vehicle sanctions scheme operates in practice and to enable vehicle sanctions to be imposed for the offences of high-range speeding and engaging in a police pursuit. The vehicle sanction regime for vehicles used to commit street racing and aggravated burn-out offences, commonly known as car hoon offences, can be imposed by police at the roadside or by the courts upon conviction. The bill amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 to include police pursuits and high-range speeding as offences for which vehicle sanctions can be imposed. It removes wheel clamping as a sanction because it did not work. It creates numberplate confiscation as an alternative to vehicle impounding as the confiscation of numberplates is immediate and ownership transfers at the point of removing the plates from a vehicle.
The bill applies roadside vehicle sanctions for first offences for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders receive the same length of sanction regardless of how long the driving charges take to get to court. It removes the underutilised provision of court-imposed sanctions upon conviction for a first offence and applies roadside vehicle sanctions only to offences committed by a driver in their own vehicle so that parents, employers and friends are not unfairly penalised for the crimes of others. These changes may get the message through to car hoons that their erratic, dangerous, selfish driving behaviour is criminal behaviour, that the road network is there for other people—mums, dads, children, family, co-workers, grandparents—and that the roadways are not the car hoons’ private playgrounds. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr JOHN FLOWERS (Rockdale) [5.41 p.m.]: The member for Mulgoa related a very sad story to the House. I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. I acknowledge the hardworking Minister for Police and Emergency Services who is committed to stopping car hoons and reckless drivers. This is tough legislation, but this Government is determined to greatly reduce speed-related deaths on our roads. The objects of this bill are to amend the 2005 Act to repeal the provision of division 2 of part 5.5 of that Act relating to the wheel clamping of vehicles; to expand the operation of division 2 of part 5.5 by enabling the imposition of sanctions under that division in relation to certain high-range speed and police pursuit offences; and to enhance the operation of division 2 of part 5.5 by enabling the confiscation of numberplates from motor vehicles as an additional sanction. The bill also contains amendments to the 2005 Act and other legislation of a related, consequential or savings and transitional nature.
As the local member for Rockdale I am pleased to be an advocate for new laws that stop dangerous drivers having access to their vehicles. Without their cars, hoons and other reckless and thoughtless drivers, people who constantly put the lives of others at risk for absolutely no reason whatsoever, will be restrained from seriously endangering the lives of others. Under the bill, dangerous drivers who commit serious driving offences will now be placed into the vehicle sanctions scheme. Speeding on our roads presents a very real safety risk, not only to the driver of the vehicle but also to other motorists and pedestrians. Speeding also causes alarm in the community and the sound of cars speeding up and down streets creates great anxiety for local residents.
The bill proposes that high-range speeding, which is when a driver exceeds the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres an hour, and police pursuit offences be included as relevant offences for the vehicle sanctions scheme. I would like to think that travelling at 45 kilometres an hour over the speed limit is not a lapse in one’s concentration; it is wilfully and knowingly flouting the law. Even down steep inclines on motorways it is difficult with the cruise control on or off to reach 45 kilometres per hour over the speed limit. Roads and Maritime Services estimated in 2011 that speeding was a factor in 150 of the 376 recorded deaths. As members will realise, this makes up a considerable portion of deaths on New South Wales roads. We want people to stop speeding. We want people to feel safe on our roads. This bill will discourage people from speeding. The message to those who think it is okay to speed is straightforward: if you want to keep your car, obey the law.
Under the bill police are given the power to remove and confiscate numberplates. This is an alternative to a vehicle being impounded. The confiscation of numberplates immediately prevents the vehicle from being driven and it is quicker, easier and less costly for police. The police will not have to arrange and pay for the towing of a vehicle nor will officers of the NSW Police Force have to wait around for a tow truck to arrive to tow the vehicle away. As the Minister for Police and Emergency Services has said, “In 2011, 137 vehicles were confiscated for car hoon offences.” Confiscating numberplates will provide a cost-effective and practical alternative to vehicle impounding. For a first-time offender, the sanctions available to police at the roadside will be vehicle impounding or confiscation of numberplates. The sanction period proposed in the bill is three months. In the event of impounding, the vehicle will be moved to and stored in a police holding yard. This is the current practice. In the event of numberplate confiscation, the police will deliver the numberplates to Roads and Maritime Services who will hold the plates for the three-month sanction.
A fixed three-month sanction from the offence date is an improvement over the current arrangement. Subsequent offenders found guilty by the court will have their vehicle forfeited to the Crown unless the offender can demonstrate to the court that the forfeiture will result in extreme hardship. Then the court may instead order that a further period of vehicle or numberplate confiscation is appropriate. Similarly, this bill also ensures that the offence of being in a police pursuit will be brought within the vehicle sanctions scheme. In 2011 there were 1,781 police pursuits. This number is far too high and represents a high risk to the community. The message must be heard loud and clear. If the police ask you to pull over, obey their direction.
The bill makes some clear amendments to the Act. It will include high-range speeding and police pursuits as offences for which sanctions will be imposed and it will provide for the confiscation of numberplates as an alternative to wheel clamping and remove wheel clamping as a sanction because it was not effective. This is a good piece of legislation and one that deserves the full support of members. Families in my electorate of Rockdale and across New South Wales deserve the safest roads possible. The bill will take us one step closer to achieving that goal and will tackle hoons and dangerous drivers head-on. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr CHRIS HOLSTEIN (Gosford) [5.48 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. This vehicle sanctions scheme is being introduced following extensive consultation between the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services, the NSW Police Force, Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services and the Department of the Attorney General and Justice. To date is has been focused primarily on hoon-type offences. It was good to hear the member for Dubbo speak about the movies and video games that glamorise speeding, burnouts, drifting and street racing. Unfortunately this is a contributing factor and it is all the more reason to bring back to reality those influenced by it.
Etched in my mind from 35 years ago is the loss of a very close and personal friend, a member of my football team who was a hoon. He sped and paid the ultimate price. At that time our coach, who was very community minded, worked with the local police chief. He frogmarched the entire football team to the morgue. If anything will impact upon one’s life it is to see a friend laid out in the morgue. He was a victim of the stupid act of speeding. Every member of that football team is still alive and is very mindful of the stupid actions of their friend, which impacted on all of us at the time.
This bill will deliver key improvements in that it is designed to immediately separate dangerous drivers from their vehicles. In line with that concept the Government proposes to include other serious driving offences in the scheme. For example, the bill will introduce numberplate confiscation as an alternative vehicle sanction option for police. The bill also proposes that high-range speeding that is more than 45 kilometres per hour over the limit and police pursuit offences should be included in the vehicle sanctions scheme. Current research shows that the risk of being a casualty in a crash if travelling more than 30 kilometres per hour over the limit in a 60-kilometres-per-hour zone is actually 64 times that of travelling at the speed limit. To put it simply, if a driver travels at 90 kilometres per hour in a 60-kilometres-per-hour zone the driver is 64 times more likely to be a casualty in an accident.
The numbers are frightening when taken in conjunction with the fact that in 2011, 225,401 legal actions for speeding were initiated in New South Wales, that is, 617 per day or 26 every hour. The risk increases greatly when somebody travels more than 45 kilometres per hour over the limit. In 2011 the Roads and Maritime Services estimated that speed was a factor in about 40 per cent of all road deaths. Another frightening statistic is that in 2011 the NSW Police Force commenced more than 3,000 legal actions against drivers for exceeding the limit by more than 45 kilometres per hour, that is, nearly 60 times a week cars speed on the streets in our communities at more than 45 kilometres per hour over the limit.
The changes proposed in the bill do not affect camera-detected high-speed offences, which must follow their own administrative processes as there is a lag effect in following up drivers and immediate sanction is not possible. However, vehicle sanctions for high-range speeding will apply to school zones, and this will reinforce the child safety message. When roads are subject to variable speed limits the determining speed for high range will be the greater of the variable speed limits. The exception to this determining factor will be if the driver is subject to a lower speed limit, for example, a P2 driver with a limit of 90 kilometres per hour will be deemed to be in the high range in a 100-kilometres-per-hour zone if the driving speed is 136 kilometres per hour as the driver is more than 45 kilometres per hour over his or her individual limit.
Vehicle sanctions will also apply under Sky’s Law or section 51B of the Crimes Act. This allows the police to initiate a vehicle sanction when there is a risky pursuit even if it does not end in a crash. This law advocated by the Coalition when in Opposition was introduced in 2010 by the former Government. Higher penalties for engaging in a pursuit of up to three years’ imprisonment for a first offence and five years for the second and subsequent offences were introduced. These types of pursuits are being treated similarly to car hoon offences as they are dangerous and present a high risk to the community. The numberplate confiscation sanction actually prevents a vehicle from being legally driven on a road and is, in effect, a vehicle impoundment without physically removing the vehicle from the possession of the offender. Confiscation of the numberplates will be a quicker, easier and less costly sanction for the police to apply.
In 2011, 137 vehicles were confiscated for car hoon offences. By expanding the sanction scheme to include these additional offences, it will no doubt increase the number of vehicles and offenders subject to vehicle sanctions. The current provisions also allow police to apply a vehicle sanction irrespective of whether the offender was the registered operator of the vehicle. Under the proposed amendment the registered operator of the vehicle who is not the driver will be categorised as a non-offending operator. A registered operator who is also the driver who committed the offence is categorised as an offending operator. Offending operators will be subject to roadside vehicle sanctions that will include vehicle impoundment and forfeiture and/or numberplate confiscation. In that case the sanction period will be three months for a first offence, and will bring consistency of the penalty for this offence.
Currently the penalty varies as the sanction period depends on how long it takes the matter to get to court, and then allows the court to rule on whether the vehicle should be further impounded or returned. The proposed amendment will increase efficiencies in view of the fixed three-month sanction period. This fixed period will apply to high-range speeding or pursuit offences or one of the existing street racing offences. For the second and subsequent offences the sanction period will be the same as for the first offence but, as is currently the practice, the court can determine that the vehicle of an offending operator can be forfeited to the Crown or a further period of vehicle impoundment can be ordered. Operationally it is expected that a second offence by an offending operator will result in the vehicle being impounded rather than confiscating the numberplates. This would be done as a prelude to possible future vehicle forfeiture following conviction.
These repeat offenders who endanger the lives of other road users, passengers in their cars, pedestrians and police who try to stop them deserve no leniency. They flout the law blatantly and repeatedly, and place members of all of our communities at risk. Numberplates will be removed from the vehicle at the scene and the vehicle will be parked at a convenient legal spot nearby. An A4-sized numberplate confiscation notice will be affixed to the inside of the windscreen. It is the offender’s responsibility to then have the vehicle towed to his or her place of choice for storage. The confiscated numberplates will be held by Roads and Maritime Services for the duration of the sanction and the period of confiscation notice must remain displayed in the vehicle for that duration. I strongly support this amendment bill that I commend to the House.
Mr DOMINIC PERROTTET (Castle Hill) [5.57 p.m.]: I support the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. Our local communities have experienced too many instances of hoons ignoring the law and inflicting injury upon themselves or others around them. Driving a vehicle is a privilege that, if not taken seriously, can have dramatic consequences. There have been many attempts throughout the years to try to stop such actions, including the crushing of vehicles involved in serious offences, confiscating vehicles, wheel clamping—which I note has been found to be ineffective—and other measures. These amendments will separate dangerous drivers from their vehicles and proposes that other relevant serious driving offences be included in the scheme. I congratulate the Minister for Police and Emergency Services and the Minister for Roads and Ports on their commitment to extensive consultation with those who deal firsthand with these issues, the NSW Police Force, Transport for NSW, Roads and Maritime Services and the Department of Attorney General and Justice.
This bill amends the Road Transport (General) Act 2005 in a number of ways. The bill will include police pursuits and high-range speeding as offences for which vehicle sanctions will be imposed, remove wheel clamping as a sanction because it did not work, create numberplate confiscation as an alternative to vehicle impoundment, apply roadside vehicle sanctions for first offences for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders receive the same length of sanction regardless of how long the driving charge takes to get to court, remove the unutilised provisions of court-imposed sanctions upon conviction of a first offence, apply roadside vehicle sanctions only to offences committed by a driver in his or her own vehicle so parents, employees and friends are not unfairly punished for the crimes of others and will limit the circumstances in which the Local Court can authorise the early release of impounded vehicles or confiscated numberplates so that hardship for others is the only ground for release.
Operating a vehicle at high speed is known to increase the likelihood of a crash. Research shows that the risk of being a casualty in a car crash while travelling at 90 kilometres an hour in a 60-kilometre-an-hour speed zone is about 64 times that of travelling at the speed limit. This bill includes high-range speeding—that is, travelling at more than 45 kilometres an hour over the speed limit—and police pursuit offences as relevant offences under the vehicle sanctions scheme. Everyone knows that speeding is a very dangerous and serious problem in our community.
In 2011, Roads and Maritime Services estimated that speeding was a factor in 150 of 376 recorded road deaths in New South Wales. That is more than 41 per cent of all road deaths in this State. In the same year, the NSW Police Force commenced 3,079 legal actions for exceeding the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres an hour. According to figures obtained from the State Debt Recovery Office, 302 camera-detected high-range speeding offences were recorded in the 2010-11 financial year. I believe that this bill will succeed in its aim of reducing the number of drivers speeding and therefore the number of deaths on New South Wales roads. It gives police the power to remove and confiscate numberplates as an alternative to the often time-consuming, costly and difficult physical confiscation of a vehicle. In 2011, 137 vehicles were confiscated.
Numberplate confiscation will provide an effective and practical alternative for police because a vehicle without numberplates is not allowed to be driven on a road or a road-related area. How will that operate in practice? Police officers will issue offenders with an A4-sized numberplate confiscation notice that will be affixed to the inside of the windscreen and it must remain there for the confiscation period. The notice will state clearly that the vehicle is the subject of a sanction and that its numberplates have been removed. It will also state that the vehicle cannot be driven during the sanction period and that it may be impounded and forfeited if it is. The notice will also include the date of the conclusion of the confiscation period, the name of the local area command officer who issued the notice, the address from which the numberplates can be collected, information about the right to apply to a Local Court for the early release of the numberplates, and the penalties that will apply for removing or tampering with the notice affixed to the windscreen.
Of course, some people will still take their chances. Accordingly, the legislation includes provisions dealing with driving contrary to a numberplate confiscation sanction. The penalties for tampering with the notice, operating a vehicle that is the subject of a sanction and being involved in numberplate crime are significant, and that is appropriate. Vehicle sanctions will be imposed only when a high-range speeding offence is detected by an officer and not by a speed camera because a camera cannot identify the offender at the time of the offence and a notice will be sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. An administrative process must be followed to identify the vehicle and its owner and a separate process will be followed to allow the registered operator to identify the offending driver.
I commend members of the Opposition for supporting this bill. We all agree that no community is completely safe from reckless individuals who choose to participate in so-called hoon offences such as burnouts and drag racing. The officers of the Castle Hill Local Area Command are sick and tired of dealing with speeding in the local area. In February this year a young male was detected driving at 179 kilometres an hour in an 80-kilometre-an-hour zone while under the influence of alcohol. That is the type of imbecile who is the focus of this legislation. Unfortunately, offences like that are committed all too often. As members have already said in this debate, road deaths are not simply statistics—every death has an impact on the family and friends of the deceased person.
Catherine Elizabeth Taylor died on Green Road at Kellyville in late August last year. Catherine left behind a three-year-old daughter, Zara Addison, and her husband, Cameron. Catherine was following her usual route to work when a hoon travelling through a roundabout crossed to the wrong side of the road and hit her car head-on. It is only when people are personally affected by such tragedies that they are galvanised into action. I commend Catherine’s family for the campaign they have waged. Her husband, Cameron, has met with the Attorney General and the Minister for Roads and Ports to open dialogue about ways in which we can prevent such accidents. Catherine’s family has also reached out to family and friends, put posts on Facebook and sent more than 3,000 emails. They want people to discuss this tragic accident with their families and friends.
Open discussion about the risks and results of poor driver education and bad behaviour might help to save a life. If it does, Catherine’s death will not have been in vain. Her loved ones say that they cannot bring Catherine back, but they want us to work together to minimise similar tragedies and such pointless loss of life. This bill will minimise such accidents and it will ensure that the deaths of people such as Catherine have not been in vain. We must provide strong incentives so that hoons do not break the law. I believe that this legislation provides a more viable punishment that will be difficult for offenders to conceal from their families and other members of the community. We must convey the message that this type of behaviour is not acceptable and that its potential consequences are serious. I commend the bill to the House.
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour—The Assistant-Speaker) [6.07 p.m.]: Having a licence is a privilege, not a right. That is often forgotten by many drivers, and not only young and novice drivers. On 13 November 41 years ago my twin brother, my younger brother, a very close friend and I were travelling along Hillsborough Road at about 11.00 p.m. after an evening of prawning at Lake Macquarie. A fairly new Holden Monaro coming from the opposite direction failed to take the bend, slid into our vehicle stopping us dead from an estimated speed of 60 kilometres an hour and drove us backwards about 100 feet. The vehicle rolled and the passenger in the Monaro either was not wearing a seatbelt or fell out of it and was ejected from the car, which rolled on top of him. He suffered horrific head injuries and died some time later in Newcastle Hospital.
My twin brother, who was driving my vehicle—we had swapped drivers about two miles before the site of the accident—had his spleen removed because it was ruptured, his liver was ruptured, his ribs were broken, as were his collarbone and shoulder blade on one side, and he suffered other severe lacerations. My younger brother had a broken femur. Our friend’s face was so badly smashed that doctors still use the before and after photographs to reassure people who have suffered severe facial injuries that life can return to normal. I was probably the least injured. I was thrown through the windscreen and lost most of the skin on my face. I do not know how many stiches I had. I also had a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, ribs and ankle and a torn Achilles tendon.
As it turned out the driver of that vehicle was a fellow by the name of Andrew Hughes who was aged about 26 and who lived about 10 kilometres away. When we were younger and had pushbikes my mother used to say to us, “If Andrew Hughes is on the road, get off the road.” He was a young man who loved fast cars and fast driving. He killed his friend and he killed himself. For six to 12 months my family was engaged in constant visits to doctors and solicitors. After that accident my younger brother was in hospital for six months, all because a young man decided that the road was his. He thought he had the right to drive at those sorts of speeds which turned the lives of members of my family upside down. Radio 2KO, the local radio station, got the Andrews mixed up and announced on the early morning news that I, rather than Andrew Hughes, had been killed in the car accident. My aunt, who had a heart condition, heard it on the radio and that affected her severely.
As a young man I was fortunate in that I was taught to drive on a driver training range. For about three years I lived in Moree where there was an open speed limit. I had a company car which gave me a licence to drive flat out, as a lot of people did in those days. At that time when there were fewer cars on the roads and fewer opportunities for accidents I could legitimately drive at a speed of 100 miles an hour. These days I would have more sense. As part and parcel of the laws that must be introduced in this State I believe that every driver, novice or otherwise, should be given a refresher course every five years and be retested. I also believe that drivers should undertake advanced driving courses where they are taught how to handle a vehicle and prove their proficiency in driving before they obtain a licence. No matter what happens in the area of licensing or people buying cars, in many cases testosterone will take over.
There are many tragedies on the Pacific Highway on the North Coast. Since 1997 there have been 555 deaths on that road. Young men believe they can drive vehicles at speed on that dangerous public road that has such a bad accident history. They see driving a car as a right and not as a privilege. Young men who are driving too fast make mistakes and not only kill or injure themselves but also often kill or injure someone else. This legislation goes some way towards sending a message to those drivers that their numberplates can be confiscated and their vehicles can be impounded for reasons that have been outlined by other members in debate on this legislation.
I commend the Government for introducing this legislation but urge it to continue to introduce laws in the future that send an even stronger safety message to the public—laws that give novice drivers an opportunity to learn how to drive vehicles safely and properly according to current road conditions. I am sure that every member in this House remembers the accident that occurred on 8 January at Urunga when a young man in his late twenties with a blood alcohol level six times over the legal limit drove at speed into a semitrailer and killed himself and severely injured the driver of the semitrailer. The semitrailer veered off the road and into a house, killing an eight-year-old boy who was sleeping in his bed.
That accident occurred because the person who drove that vehicle had no respect for the road rules of this State. This legislation and other legislation must send a strong message to all drivers that they have a responsibility to obey the laws not only to protect themselves but also to protect the lives of others and to minimise the road toll in New South Wales. We will never stop deaths on our roads but members of this Parliament have an obligation to bring down the road toll and to ensure that we can drive safely on the roads free from the hoons and idiots who believe they own the roads. I commend the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012 to the House.
Mr GEOFF PROVEST (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.15 p.m.], in reply: On behalf of the Hon. Michael Gallacher, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter, and Vice-President of the Executive Council, and the Hon. Greg Smith, Attorney General, and Minister for Justice I thank members for their contribution to debate on the Road Transport (General) Amendment (Vehicle Sanctions) Bill 2012. Members representing the electorates of Coogee, Toongabbie, Tweed, Auburn, Myall Lakes, Cabramatta, Camden, Albury, Clarence, Orange, Dubbo, Drummoyne, Tamworth, Mulgoa, Rockdale, Gosford, Castle Hill and Coffs Harbour were all in favour of this bill and told some horrific and touching stories about death and destruction on our roads. We support the attempt by those Ministers to resolve the ongoing carnage on our roads.
The issues addressed in the bill are serious. Society will not tolerate people using their vehicles in a dangerous manner that risks lives. Driving a vehicle is a privilege that must be taken seriously. The penalties in this bill are directed to and immediate for those who commit serious driving offences. The New South Wales Government will not tolerate dangerous drivers on our roads. Street racers who engage in police pursuits and drivers who exceed the speed limit by more than 45 kilometres an hour will face the immediate loss of their vehicle or numberplates. The main changes proposed in the bill include police pursuits and high-range speeding as offences for which vehicle sanctions would be imposed. Wheel clamping has been removed as a sanction because it did not work.
The bill creates numberplate confiscation as an alternative to vehicle impounding. It applies roadside vehicle sanctions for the first offence for a fixed period of three months so that all offenders serve out the same length of time of sanction, regardless of how long the driving charge takes to get to court. The bill will remove the underutilised provisions for court-imposed sanctions upon conviction for a first offence. It will apply roadside vehicle sanctions only to offences committed by a driver in his or her own vehicle so parents, employers and friends are not unfairly punished for the crimes of others.
The bill will limit the circumstances in which the Local Court will authorise the early release of impounded vehicles or confiscated numberplates so that the hardship for others applies only to the grounds of release. Once again I thank all those members who contributed to debate on the bill. They indicated that they would support the legislation and I thank them for their contributions. I know that these legislative reforms will be well received by the NSW Police Force and, more importantly, they will be well received by the community which is looking for commonsense approaches to solving the problems on our roads. I commend the bill to the House.
Question—That this bill be now read a second time—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Motion by Mr Geoff Provest agreed to:
That this bill be now read a third time.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a third time and returned to the Legislative Council without amendment.