I refer to the story ‘Ice habit wreaking havoc’, The Border Mail, May 5. Stacey Lea Robinson of Wodonga appeared at Albury Local Court for driving whilst disqualified (second or subsequent offence) and driving under the influence of drugs. She had not even served one day of her disqualification when she was caught driving and to make matters worse, she was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time.
She appeared before Albury Local Court magistrate Rodney Brender for these charges and received a slap on the wrist with a 12-month good behaviour bond and an extension of her disqualification period of six months. I bet she left the court laughing her head off.
Do readers remember the Falkholt family from the Boxing day crash in 2017? Four dead at the scene and a further death several weeks later when life support was turned off. Driver at fault was a DUI, drug and habitual disqualified driver. I remember. The driver at fault was also killed in the crash.
This “touchy-feely” approach to sentencing has been tried and is clearly failing. Surely there is a scale of offending? Surely someone who does not even last one day before reoffending is in the more serious end of drive whilst disqualified.
Magistrates need to hit these offenders hard, while they can, when they have the chance to stop this kind of offending. Send offenders to jail, if only for 28 days. I tell you what, 28 days for a first offence may stop some from re-offending.
Magistrates need to think about the community's safety, my safety, my family's safety, hell even an offender’s safety. Repeat offenders have had their chances and must be punished properly, or else the devastating crash that killed an entire family, the Falkholts, will be repeated. It has to be repeated, there is no other outcome of this soft penalty approach to recidivist traffic offenders. It's been almost nine years since I was a serving NSW Police Force officer so my information my be antiquated a little. I remember the penalties for disqualified driving were broken into two categories. First offence and second or subsequent offences.
The maximum penalty available to the courts for these were; first offence, maximum penalty $3000 fine and or 18 months imprisonment and second or subsequent offences, the maximum penalty went up to $5000 and or two years imprisonment. I apologise if that has changed since I left the force. I rely on Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Act 1998 Section 25A(1)(a).
Stacey Lea Robinson was appearing in court for her second disqualified driving charge. Remember that means she has already been found guilty of a serious traffic offence, been disqualified, driven and been caught, back to court and let off and then caught again and now back to court and now she is free again. And another charge of driving under the influence of methamphetamine. And these charges are preferred one day after her previous court appearance, and the presiding magistrate has a lot of power. He could have sent her to jail and fined her, or both, and yet he decided a bond and extension of disqualification was a deterrent for this type of behaviour. That is no deterrent whatsoever.
I am afraid to say the community has lost respect for magistrates who have lost touch with the expectations of the community when it comes to sentencing serious traffic offenders.