Wednesday, July 24, 2024

ACT Govt responds to dangerous driving inquiry recommendations

The ACT Government has responded to 28 recommendations from the Standing Committee Inquiry into Dangerous Driving in the ACT, which released its final report in April.

The recommendations from the Inquiry include proposals for law reform; an increase in information and support to victims of crime; and boosting the scope and power of the Sentence Administration Board.

The Government has agreed to nine of the recommendations, agreed as existing Government policy to a further two, agreed in principle to six, noted seven and does not agree with four of the 28 recommendations.

Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury says the Government shares the concern of Inquiry participants and the broader community about dangerous driving.

“Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and thank the significant number of victims and families of victims of road incidents who engaged with the Inquiry by the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety as a witness or by providing submissions,” he said.

“On behalf of the Government, I extend my gratitude and appreciation to each of you who have contributed to the Inquiry on Dangerous Driving, despite the immense pain and loss you have endured.

“Your willingness to share your stories and experiences has been an essential part of our efforts to understand and address the pressing issue of dangerous driving in our community.

ACT Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury.

“Our response is a whole-of government approach designed to reduce this serious harm in our community. Our commitment to the safety of our community remains unwavering and it is our responsibility to ensure that the measures we put in place are effective  and practical, with the goal of reducing dangerous driving and preventing further tragedies on our roads.”

The government agreed to the following recommendations:

  • Reviewing dangerous driving sentences to determine if there was a downward trend towards lighter sentences, and if so, consider if guideline judgements were appropriate (completed);
  • Changing the name of the offence ‘Culpable driving causing death’ to ‘vehicular manslaughter’, and examine the appropriate penalty in line with that for manslaughter;
  • Reviewing leniency for discounts to sentences of serious crimes and repeat offenders, including considering the impact on victims;
  • Increasing public awareness of how the justice system works, by explaining sentencing decisions in plain English, what is involved in Intensive Correction Orders, and the process and criteria of judicial appointments;
  • Engaging with victims of crime to provide more transparency about how the transitional release program works (existing government policy);
  • Overhauling its data collection on corrections orders for improved analysis (agreed in principle);
  • Reviewing and streamlining ACT legislation governing road safety and dangerous driving (agreed in principle);
  • Developing a plan on how to improve driver education and intervention programs on dangerous driving, especially in relation to speeding and drink / drug driving (agreed in principle);
  • Examining how Intelligent Speed Adaptation can reduce speeding (agreed in principle);
  • Providing a status update on scoping and feasibility work on electronic monitoring options;
  • Monitoring the evidence base for driver impairment following drug intake;
  • Introducing additional trauma training for health practitioners to improve support to victims of dangerous driving and their families (agreed in principle);
  • Providing extra funding to cover the gap on the coronial support list (existing government policy);
  • Ensuring that subpoenas issued to victims are trauma informed (for example, avoiding them falling on anniversaries);
  • Introducing trauma training for all court staff and judiciary, and ensuring that there are physical arrangements (such as a family room) to minimise the likelihood of interactions between defendants and families and victims at the courts (agreed in principle);
  • Requiring the Motor Accident Insurance Commission improve their customer service delivery by being trauma informed;
  • Access Canberra improving their information sharing with the Motor Accident Insurance Commission.

The government noted the following recommendations:

  • Introducing legislation for a neutral presumption of bail for serious dangerous driving offences such as driving at police and recidivist serious motor vehicle offenders;
  • The Sentence Administration Board should increase the transparency in their decision making;
  • The ACT Government should allow for greater information sharing between ACT Corrective Services and the Sentence Administration Board;
  • The Sentence Administration Board should have the power to inquire into offenders who have been charged (even if not convicted) with breaching conditions of their Intensive Corrections Order;
  • Introducing a high risk offender scheme, which requires recidivist offenders to demonstrate to a court their fitness to drive;
  • Urgently funding a trauma service that is available at the scene of an accident and a 24-hour hotline to help victims and their families;
  • Providing funding for the Victims of Crime Commission to provide a wraparound service for families of victims as a result of dangerous driving; supporting people with non-fatal injuries as a result of dangerous driving; and extending support for victims of ‘negligent driving’.

The government did not agree to the following recommendations:

  • The Sentence Administration Board should have the authority to include restrictions on driver licences or suspend the licence as a parole condition;
  • Additional funding to the Sentence Administration Board to put in place appropriate guidelines to require that offenders on parole receive medical treatment;
  • Implementing penalties for leaving the scene of an accident to include passengers, not just drivers;
  • Providing police with the power to confiscate mobile phones on the spot in serious collisions.

The Territory recorded its worst yearly road toll in a decade last year – with 18 lives lost on ACT roads.

This week, the Assembly will debate a Bill that seeks to create  a new criminal offence to prohibit the unauthorised entry of a motor vehicle without a reasonable excuse.

“The new offence of unauthorised entry of a motor vehicle will address criminal activity such as carpark break-ins and a person entering unlocked vehicles to steal the contents of a vehicle,” said Attorney-General Rattenbury.

“It aims to fill a gap in the criminal law as previously it was only an offence to charge and convict a person if there was proof the person was driving the vehicle.

“The new offence will ensure people are held accountable for their behaviour and help address the issue of motor vehicle theft and associated dangerous driving and other crimes in the ACT.”

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