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Innocent to lose demerit points

Innocent to lose demerit points

Police and the Police Minister in WA seem determined to introduce a system where people are penalised by loss of demerit driving points if they can’t prove themselves innocent. The proposal to reverse the burden of proof is a further example of how the traditional rule of law in Australia is being turned on its head.

Innocent till proven guilty? Not for drivers in WA.

Police Minister Rob Johnson is undermining people’s confidence in WA law by backing police proposals to fine and take points from drivers who haven’t committed any crime.

“These proposed ‘owner onus’ laws, which rob people and companies of demerit points when they haven’t committed an offence, are the antithesis of the Australian commitment to a fair go,” Civil Liberties Australia WA spokesperson Rex Widerstrom said.

“It’s ironic that these moves come at a time when Australia pauses to remember the sacrifice of those who fought for freedom. Can you imagine what our Anzacs and WW2 diggers would think of laws like these?

“Four out of five WA citizens in a recent poll thought Mr Johnson wasn’t suitable for the office he hold[1] – backing unfair police plans to penalise vehicle owners who have committed no offence illustrates why he polls so badly.

“Mr Johnson says that innocent vehicle owners, including companies, who cannot identify the driver of a vehicle snapped speeding will be made not only to pay a fine but will lose demerit points.

“What about the right of a person not to be punished for a crime they did not commit? What about the long established doctrine that holds a person innocent till proven guilty?

“These fair go principles are more important than ill-defined concepts of “public safety” with no demonstrated proof that what the police propose will cut speeding. It’s pie in the sky policing, grabbing more draconian powers for no valid, proven reason,

“If Mr Johnson yet again grants the WA Police the right to dispense with proof and simply find people guilty on the spot, and impose a penalty of their choosing, he will be depleting the freedoms our ANZACs fought to preserve.”

The fact that Mr Johnson had signalled that speed camera operation in WA was likely to be privatised[2] raised even greater concerns, Mr Widerstrom said. “Are we to see private firms given the power to determine guilt and impose penalties – traditionally the sole domain of the courts?

“Has he thought, for instance, what might happen if a company can’t work out who was driving, wants to avoid a penalty, and puts pressure on an innocent employee to accept fault? Alternatively, why should a small business owner end up losing his or her licence because of the actions of their employees?

“Mr Johnson, with his support of stop-and-search powers and now of owner onus legislation, demonstrates quite clearly that he places little or no value on the rights of ordinary West Australians to live their lives without undue interference from police.

“It seems that he does not understand – or simply does not care – that rights such as not being punished for a crime you didn’t commit are the very foundations of a civilised society.

“It may be time Premier Barnett heeded the wishes of most West Australians and hold a reshuffle to give Mr Johnson another Ministry where his lack of understanding of the rights and and civil liberties of WA won’t matter so much,” Mr Widerstrom concluded.

[1] http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/survey-blames-liberals-for-failing-to-keep-us-safe/story-e6frg13u-1225852195999

[2] http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/speed-cameras-to-be-privatised-in-wa/story-e6frg143-1225797751382

What the police want, and the Minister supports: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/mp/7098872/police-plan-to-net-fine-evaders/

Issued by:
Civil Liberties Australia
WA spokesperson: Rex Widerstrom
National: Tim Vines

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