Tasmania Law Reform Institute Releases Final Report on Recidivist Drink Drivers

12 June 2018

By Gurinder Cheema

On April 17th 2018, the Tasmania Law Reform Institute (TLRI) released its final report, Responding to the Problem of Recidivist Drink Drivers – Final Report # 24. The report follows the TLRI’s release of its issues paper, Responding to the Problem of Recidivist Drink Drivers – Issues Paper # 23. The TLRI’s issues paper received 10 written responses. The TLRI also carried out a series of consultations with stakeholders from the justice and health sectors. The report considers Tasmania’s persistent problem of repeat drink driving offenders and proposes a solution.

The report notes that Tasmania’s current criminal justice system’s approach to repeat drink driving is inadequate. The report states, “[A] specialist response is necessary given the substantial risk posed to public safety by recidivist drink drinkers and the enormous social and economic costs that arise from road trauma involving repeat drink driving.” While the TLRI recognizes that an increasing penalty structure is meant to deter offenders, the report notes that research points to deficiencies in the traditional criminal justice response. Research suggests an increasing penalty structure has little or no impact on recidivism rates for some drink drivers. Instead, it may contribute to the system turning into a revolving door for offenders, in which the underlying causes of their drink driving behaviour are not addressed and they end up serving prison sentences.

The TLRI’s key recommendation is that a Drug Treatment (DWI) order should be developed in Tasmania. The DWI order would be located within the drug treatment order currently operating within the Magistrates Court. The TLRI recommends that the legislative objectives of the DWI order should include to:

  • facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by providing a judicially-supervised, therapeutically-oriented, integrated alcohol treatment and supervision regime;
  • reduce the level of criminal activity associated with alcohol use disorder, in particular drink driving; and
  • reduce risks to offenders’ health and well-being.

The TLRI recommends that a pilot DWI order should first be established with the support of a Steering Group, comprised of representatives from key government agencies. In addition, the TLRI recommends that the DWI order should have a legislative basis. The TLRI also suggests that the requirements of a drug treatment assessment order under the Sentencing Act 1997 (Tas) s 27D(2) should provide the framework for the suitability assessment of DWI offenders. Further, feedback should be sought from suitable experts with respect to the appropriateness of the current criteria used to assess the eligibility of DWI offenders.

The report includes a total of 37 recommendations. Other recommendations deal with the following aspects of the DWI order:

  • specific eligibility criteria;
  • offenders’ mental health and criminal history;
  • referrals;
  • screening mechanisms;
  • conditions;
  • the specifics of treatment services;
  • oversight;
  • evaluation; and
  • sustainability, resources and funding.

The TLRI’s news release provides an overview of the report’s key findings. For more information about the TLRI and its current and past projects, please click here.

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