19 September 2018
Mr PESUTTO (Hawthorn) (17:55:13) — I am pleased to take this opportunity to comment on these amendments. We will be supporting these amendments. I would like first to place on record our condolences and our sympathies to the mother of Jalal Yassine‑Naja, for whom we are standing here today and debating this matter. Jalal, for whom this amendment is eponymously named, was killed in March 2017 when an unlicensed driver struck him in the course of driving. For various reasons, the driver received a sentence of 80 hours community service, among other things as I understand it. That was the principle component of the sentence which was imposed. Jalal’s mother, Olivia, took up a campaign, driven by grief and a sheer determination to change the law, to see to it that tougher laws were brought in for people who drive while unlicensed, certainly in a dangerous manner.
I agree with the Attorney-General’s comments that this proposed amendment does not create an absolute or strict liability offence. It creates only a presumption — but an important presumption — that a person driving in circumstances where they either know or are reckless to the fact that they are unlicensed is presumed to be driving dangerously, and thereupon it falls upon a defendant in those circumstances to satisfy the court on an appropriate standard of proof that they were not driving dangerously. We think that is an appropriate change in the law.
The public may sometimes struggle to understand why the common law has not always treated driving offences in the same way as serious injuries caused by physical violence. Courts have for decades dealt with and wrestled with the difficulties of that, because serious injuries as a result of motor vehicles can occur in circumstances where the driver may have been innocent or momentarily distracted by something out of their control, compared with the situation where they were clearly reckless or intentionally reckless in causing injury. This amendment is an important step to change some of that and to make it clear to those people who think it is okay to drive a car when they are unlicensed that they will face a presumption which will carry a much more serious consequence for them.
We support this amendment. I think we owe it to Olivia and the memory of Jalal and victims of other drivers who were driving vehicles in unlicensed circumstances, who have gone on to either kill or seriously injure innocent people, to back up this bill with a strong campaign to make it clear to everyone in our community that driving a vehicle unlicensed will carry very serious consequences if you cannot establish that you were otherwise driving safely. On that note I can confirm that we will support this amendment, and I hope that this legislation can pass quickly.
Motion agreed to.