Proposed penalties for driving offences leading to death or serious injury

The Queensland government is currently considering introducing a new mid-range driving offence between the existing Criminal Code offence of Dangerous Driving, and the TORUM offence of Driving without Due Care and Attention offence.  The proposed offence will include a circumstance of aggravation for offending drivers who cause death or grievous bodily harm in the commission of the offence of Driving without Due Care and Attention, where they were driving whilst unlicensed or their license was suspended, or disqualified.  The proposal follows the Coroners recommendations in the matter of Audrey Anne Dow.

Inquest into the death of Audrey Anne Dow

Audrey Anne Dow passed away at Mackay Base Hospital on 31 July 2013, from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The collision occurred when Aaron John Kite crossed over the continuous double centre line and collided head-on with Ms Dow’s vehicle. Mr Kite was disqualified from driving at the time of the collision.  Mr Kite was fined $4000 for the offence of driving without due care and attention.  He was again disqualified from holding or obtaining a drivers license.

The Coroner David O’Connell examined whether the available offences applicable to the circumstances of the incident should be reviewed.  He delivered his findings of inquest on 6 March 2015.

In particular the Coroner O’Connell determined that:

Clearly the law in Queensland needs to change to allow for a mid-range offence. In addition it may be appropriate that the present driving laws be amended to have a specific circumstance of aggravation for driving without due care and attention where the offending driver causes grievous bodily harm or death; and where they were driving while either unlicensed, suspended, or disqualified.

Careless Driving

The offence of careless driving of motor vehicles, is less serious than the criminal offence of Dangerous Operation of a motor vehicle. In order to make out the offence, the prosecution must prove that a person drove without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

It is suggested that effect could be given to the coroner’s recommendation by amending section 83 of the TORUM to create a circumstance of aggravation (punishable by a higher maximum penalty) where the careless driving caused the death of or the grievous bodily harm to another person.

A further aggravated penalty could apply where the driving caused the death of or the grievous bodily harm to another person and at the time of the driving, the offender had been disqualified from driving or was unlicensed to hold a driver license.

Proposed mandatory minimum licence disqualification

The changes include proposed mandatory minimum licence disqualification periods and an increase to the maximum penalty for offences causing death or grievous bodily harm.

Careless Driving causing death or GBH

  • Current max penalty – $5,046 or 6 months imprisonment (3 demerit points).
    • No minimum licence disqualification period.
  • Proposed max penalty – $10,092 or 12 months imprisonment (3 demerit points) and
    • Minimum licence disqualification period of at least 6 months.
  • Proposed max penalty (with circumstances of aggravation) – $20, 184 or 2 years imprisonment and
    • minimum licence disqualification of at least 6 months.

Dangerous Driving causing death or GBH

  • Current max penalty – 10 years imprisonment; and
    • minimum licence disqualification period 6 months
  • Proposed max penalty -10 years imprisonment; and
    • minimum licence disqualification period of at least 12 months
  • Current max penalty (with circumstances of aggravation) – 14 years imprisonment; and
    • minimum licence disqualification period 6 months
  • Proposed max penalty (with circumstances of aggravation) -14 years imprisonment; and
    • minimum licence disqualification period of at least 12 months.

Are you facing charges relating to dangerous driving or careless driving? Contact the traffic law experts at Gatenby Criminal Law today on  (07) 5580 0120 or contact us online.

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