VICTORIAN magistrates from today have far-reaching powers that could include taking someone’s driving licence for walking along a street when drunk.
The state’s Attorney-General Robert Clark said courts now had the power to impose tough conditions on law breakers which better protected the community.
The provisions broaden a judicial officer’s ability to suspend, cancel or disqualify an offender’s licence or learner permit for any matter, regardless of whether driving is an element of the offence.
For anyone to lose a licence for public drunkenness would be an extreme use of the new power.
Offenders can lose their licences for road rage and magistrates have wide powers to impose conditions on them.
“From today, offenders can lose their driver’s licence for road rage offences or for any other offence where the court considers doing so will better protect the community or send a clear message to the offender,” Mr Clark says.
“This power will be available to courts alongside other strong powers the government has already given to the courts to impose conditions on offenders under community correction orders, including curfews, no-go zones and bans on entering licensed premises.”
Mr Clark said offences that attracted the imposition of an interlock device had been expanded.
They include the theft of a motor vehicle and driving dangerously or negligently when being chased by police where the offence is committed under the influence of alcohol.
“The amendments also consolidate into a single, simplified process under the Road Safety Act the existing requirements for obtaining a driver licence or learner permit after disqualification and for imposing or removing an alcohol interlock condition on a driver’s licence or learner permit,” Mr Clark said.
“Where a court considers the best way to pull an offender into line is by taking away their licence, it will have the power to do so.”
A senior North East traffic policeman welcomed The Road Safety and Sentencing Acts Amendment Act 2013.
Wangaratta highway patrol Sgt Michael Connors said anything that deterred offending was welcome.
“The possession of a licence is a privilege, not a right, so if these offences are going to be committed where they shouldn’t be driving on our roads, say hoon driving or evading police, then their licence should be suspended or removed,” Sgt Connors said.
“But a very small element of the community is not deterred at all.
“Anything open to the court to deter these people is good.
“If these deterrents are put in place, realistically, they should work and it should deter people from committing further offences.”