In late October 2017, the NSW State Government passed a number of amendments to the Road Transport Act 2013 (the “Act”) which overhaul the system as it relates to driving disqualifications. The aim of the amendment is to reduce unlawful driving by giving people an opportunity to have their licences returned in certain circumstances where they can demonstrate their compliance with the Court’s orders.
The most significant of these amendments are summarised as follows:
Lifting lengthy disqualification periods
The Court will now have a discretionary power to grant back the licences of drivers serving a lengthy driving ban if they have complied with the terms of their disqualification for a period of at least 2 years and sometimes 4 years (depending on circumstances). This discretion will not be available to drivers who have been convicted of driving offences involving death or grievous bodily harm.
The Habitual Traffic Offender Scheme has also been abolished with these amendments. Persons who are currently subject to a habitual traffic offender order will still be required to comply with the terms of the order, however will be able to apply to lift the order in a similar manner to the circumstances described in the previous paragraph.
The Act has been amended to provide automatic and minimum disqualification periods for unlicensed driving offences to bring the punishment for these offences in line with other offences within the Act. This means that if you are convicted of a relevant offence the Court is required to automatically hand down a particular disqualification (for example, six months for a first offence of driving whilst disqualified) but the Court will have discretion to reduce the disqualification down to the minimum disqualification (which for a first offence of driving whilst disqualified is 3 months).
Police on-the-spot powers
The Police now have further powers to take on-the-spot action for drivers who have been found to be driving whilst unlicensed or disqualified on 2 or more occasions and speeding in excess of 30km/h. These powers include the power to seize a vehicle or its number plates.