Sunday Herald Sun Sunday 19 February 2006

Three strikes, you're in jail




COMPULSORY jail terms and life bans for repeat drink-drivers are at the centre of a radical plan to disempower "soft" judges.


Former traffic assistant commissioner Ray Shuey is pushing for tougher sentences for boozers who refuse to stay off the roads.

The former Victoria Police officer is writing to Premier Steve Bracks calling for a crackdown.


Mr Shuey wants mandatory jail for drink-drivers on their third offence in five years.


He has also recommended confiscating the cars of disqualified drivers who are caught driving again.


Currently, judges and magistrates can sentence repeat drink-drivers to a maximum of three months' jail.


The Sentencing Advisory Council has recommended the State Government increase the maximum to 18 months.


But Mr Shuey and the Pedestrian Council of Australia want mandatory jail, revoking the judiciary's power of discretion.


"Some magistrates and judges have proved time and time again that they will only jail these repeat offenders when they kill someone," Mr Shuey said.


"They are so utterly out of touch with reality and community feeling, that it's time politicians took over and reflected the community's concerns and will.


The push follows the suspended three-year sentence dealt to repeat drink-driver Taban Gany on February 10.


The Sudanese refugee crashed into Dandenong West Primary School in May, badly injuring four children. He had two previous drink-driving convictions and was driving while disqualified.


Mr Shuey is also writing to the Director of Public Prosecutions, urging him to lodge an appeal in the Gany case.


The toughest penalty available for repeat drink-drivers is three months. The maximum for negligently causing serious injury -- the most serious charge that Gany faced -- is five years.


Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby said judges should be stripped of their powers if they were unwilling to jail dangerous drivers.


A State Government spokesperson said drink-driving penalties were being reviewed.

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