Sunday Mail - Sunday 3 December, 2006

Ban drunks for life

By Elissa Lawrence
Ban drunks for life

Elissa Lawrence

AN overwhelming number of Queenslanders want tougher penalties for repeat drink-drivers.

A Sunday Mail poll reveals more than 75 per cent of people supported stripping offenders of their vehicles and licences for life.

The on-line poll attracted more than 1100 responses.

Last week, The Sunday Mail reported a 40 per cent increase in the number of repeat drink-driving offences since 2003.

Police figures showed there had been 1255 repeat drink-driving offences this year to November 10, up from 1041 for 2005, 939 in 2004 and 888 in 2003.

Parliament last week passed new laws dealing with repeat drink-drivers but many believe they don't go far enough.

The Sunday Mail's reporting of the big rise in offences prompted Opposition Police and Corrective Services spokesman Rob Messenger to raise the matter in parliament.

He agreed tough penalties were the only way to battle the problem.

"It's ground-breaking legislation and it hasn't been done anywhere else before . . . but I believe we should be tougher," he said.

"We must be prepared to protect those people who are going to be killed and maimed by drink-drivers.

"It's a case of you have to do whatever it takes. There's always a struggle between taking away property rights and protecting the public and the balance has always got to be in favour of protecting the public."

Pedestrian Council of Australia chair Harold Scruby, who supports zero tolerance, said the public would support even tougher laws.

"The public is behind this," he said. "I can't understand why the politicians are lagging so far behind the community. We'd encourage the Beattie Government to finish the job.

"The costs in taking away a car for 48 hours seem counter-productive. Giving them back after 48 hours isn't going to solve much at all. Why are we giving it back to them again and again?"

He wanted to see vehicles confiscated for three months on the second offence and then a mandatory jail term and permanent loss of the vehicle for a third offence.

The new laws toughen penalties for repeat drink-drivers by confiscating vehicles for 48 hours for two offences inside three years, or for three months for a further offence.

Judges may consider confiscating indefinitely the cars of offenders caught drink-driving more than three times in three years. However, legal sources consider it unlikely such severe penalties would be enforced.

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