Dangerous driving is a serious offence in Tasmania and it’s about to become a lot more serious. This is because dangerous driving will move from the Traffic Act to the Criminal Code. As a result, offenders face a trial by jury in the Supreme Court, rather than trial by magistrate only. They could end up in jail for up to 21 years.
Meanwhile, other related offences will carry longer maximum terms:
- An extra year for negligent driving
- Six more months for drivers guilty of grievous bodily harm.
The government is bringing in these changes to reflect concern in the community. In fact, the Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) thinks current penalties are already “appropriate”. Law Society of Tasmania President agrees, as Tasmania’s current maximum sentences for negligent driving and causing grievous bodily harm compare to some in NSW.
The SAC chair, Professor Freiburg, suggests the government begin by setting up a “problem-oriented” drink-driving court. For example, he recommends a restorative justice program for repeat offenders. It could particularly focus on those affected by underlying substance abuse.
Restorative justice connects offenders to victims of their crime and their families. This potentially helps them understand each other’s position better and offers opportunities for closure.
If this program is developed, it will be the first of its kind in Tasmania.