End demerit points 'injustice', MP says

NSW accused of denying motorists justice because of its stance on demerit points

By Brad Gardner | November 2, 2009

The Rees Government has been accused of denying motorists justice because of its stance on demerit points in New South Wales.

Liberal MP Malcolm Kerr has backed a push by Nationals leader Andrew Stoner for an end to the policy that prevents courts ruling on demerit points for driving offences.

Magistrates can find someone guilty of an offence but waive a fine in extenuating circumstances, but demerit points will always be applied if someone is found guilty or convicted.

Kerr claims this has created an "injustice...because although a magistrate may waive a fine, or order that no penalty at all be imposed, he or she has no power to order that demerit points should not be part of the penalty".

He also questioned why the anomaly applies considering more serious offences are not dealt with in the same manner.

"After all, even in murder cases and other very serious crimes we trust judicial officers to exercise discretion and dispense mercy if the circumstances dictate," he says.

The Law Society of NSW has long campaigned for reform on the basis that drivers given a second chance by a court's decision to waive fines should not then be slugged with demerit points.

Stoner introduced the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment (Demerit Points) Bill to give courts the power to rule on demerit points for speeding and red light offences.

The Government refused to support the proposal, with Maitland MP Frank Terenzini saying it will lead to offenders escaping penalties.

"Under this bill, people who are found guilty of an offence, for example, speeding or driving through a red traffic light, will be able to get away with no punishment at all," he says.

"How can it be good public policy if someone found guilty of those two offences [speeding and traffic infringements] does not have demerit points allocated against their licence?"

The trucking industry has also called for changes to the policy because demerit points are linked to work diary offences under fatigue management.

As reported by ATN, a driver of a NSW-based trucking company faced a $250 fine for incorrectly filling out his work diary.

The magistrate found him guilty but waived the fee because the driver suffered from Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of Autism.

Despite this, four demerit points were still added because the magistrate had no power to rule on them.

The Opposition is trying to abolish demerit points for work diary offences through a disallowance motion in the Legislative Council.

A spokesman for Stoner says the motion is due to be reviewed this month. If passed, it will abolish fatigue management in NSW.

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