Bill Tilley backs call for harsher drug bans

Bill Tilley says the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs in Victoria should be increased. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Bill Tilley says the penalties for driving under the influence of drugs in Victoria should be increased. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

BENAMBRA MP Bill Tilley has backed a magistrate’s call for tougher licence cancellations for drug-drivers.

John Murphy complained in Wodonga Magistrates Court this week that Victorian law allowed him to disqualify a driver for only six months.

Mr Murphy wanted to hand Dean James Simpson a longer disqualification for driving with methamphetamine in his system.

Mr Tilley said he shared Mr Murphy’s frustration, who predicted the number of drug-drivers appearing in court would, before long, outnumber drink-drivers.

“I share Mr Murphy’s concerns, and certainly the government has to recognise and apply appropriate penalties to this now-recognised problem,” he said.

“It has been a problem for a long time.”

Mr Tilley said he was confident the government properly understood issues related to methamphetamine, cannabis and heroin.

“We also need to recognise impairment from the abuse of pharmaceutical products,” he said.

Simpson, 27, pleaded guilty to driving while having a prescribed concentration of a drug.

Police stopped him in Pearce Street, Wodonga, on February 7.

A preliminary breath test produced a negative result, but an oral fluid sample tested positive for either methamphetamine or cannabis.

A further test in Melbourne was positive for methamphetamine.

Mr Tilley said Wodonga police did not always have more oral drug test kits on hand and more funding was needed to provide them.

“There was a period when they couldn’t test drivers,” he said.

Mr Tilley, a former policeman, has first-hand knowledge of drug-driver testing in Victoria.

“I was one of the first 120 drug testers in the state when drug legislation came in,” he said.

Mr Tilley said that before then if alcohol was present police did not prosecute for drugs — even if both drugs and alcohol were present.

He said testing for drugs was not as simple as for a driver’s prescribed concentration of alcohol.

“It is a bit more technical, but I share Mr Murphy’s frustrations and I do know the government is exploring the appropriate way to address the issue confronting us with driving whilst drug impaired,” he said.

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