CONSIDERING the Coffs Coast is arguably the drink driving capital of New South Wales, issues raised by the NSW Sentencing Council regarding sentencing should be taken notice of by those who chance their arm with regards to driving above the legal limit.
The Council, which monitors sentencing trends and practices and prepares research reports at the request of the Attorney General, has found that automatic disqualification of a drivers' licence will only occur after a conviction, so disqualification does not follow a non-conviction order.
If there are compelling reasons not to disqualify a licence, the only available sentencing option for the court is to make a non-conviction order.
The Sentencing Council believes these orders do not adequately address the seriousness of drink driving offences and their impact on road safety.
The Council has recommended the introduction of a 'good behaviour licence' where a driver would be convicted but would still be allowed to keep their licence, subject to conditions of good behaviour.
This additional sentencing option would ensure non-conviction orders are used only for appropriate cases and not simply to avoid consequences of disqualification that follow a conviction.
The Council made the additional recommendation that alcohol interlock devices be available as an optional condition of a good behaviour licence.
At this stage the recommendations are yet to be approved or acted upon but if they do drivers on the Coffs Coast who get caught with a PCA reading of .05 or over could be in for a rude shock when they front the magistrate.