Could this have been prevented?

February 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A judge has told a 42-year-old Nelson man with 41 previous driving convictions that it was only a matter of time before he injured or killed somebody.

Norman Mostyn Teece appeared in Nelson District Court for sentencing yesterday by Judge Tony Zohrab on a charge of dangerous driving causing death, and was sentenced to three years in prison. …

Judge Zohrab said a law change last year meant the maximum sentence he could impose had doubled from five to 10 years.

“It’s hard not to be sympathetic to the situation you find yourself in, but the sympathy is dulled or tempered because of your history.”

Teece had received 41 previous driving convictions in the period between 1986 and 2001, and since 2001 had had his driving licence suspended twice.

“You have a terrible prior history. You have placed members of the public in danger again and again.” Judge Zohrab said.

Judge Zohrab is right that it was only a matter of time before he killed someone. I think he is lucky to have got only three years jail. A case for manslaughter could be made, if you take into account his past history.

This got me thinking, is there any way different laws could have prevented this death, or minimised the chance of its happening.

I’d advocate two changes for such recidivist dangerous drivers.

The first is that after a certain number of offences, you face a lifetime ban from driving. I’m not sure how many offences that would be, but certainly less than 41.

I note even now he has only been suspended for five years, of which around half he will be in prison for anyway.

The second change is around penalties for driving while disqualified. We know certainty of being caught and certainty of sentence are deterrents. I would advocate that any driver who has been permanently disqualified from driving (I would hope we have less than 100 in total) is subject to pro-active checking by Police that they are not driving and that if they are caught driving while permanently disqualified they are automatically jailed with say a minimum three month sentence.

If they refuse to drive safely on the roads, then better they are in jail than they are allowed to carry on until they do kill someone, as Norman Teece did.

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