A WA magistrate who was criticised for going soft by a former police commissioner just over a year ago has copped a serve after he demanded an easier go for young motorists who flout the road rules.
Magistrate Robert Young was condemned by both sides of politics after he hit out at a “harsh” and “arbitrary” law that automatically cancels the licence of a P-plate driver who accrues too many demerit points.
WA’s Road Traffic Act forces P-platers with excessive demerit points to reapply for their driver’s licence at the end of their penalty period.
Mr Young told Busselton Magistrate’s Court that driver’s licences should be disqualified rather than cancelled, a change that would mean P-platers got their licence back at the end of their penalty period without having to reapply for it.
Mr Le Blang lost his licence for three months but was charged with driving without a licence when he started driving after his three-month penalty ended without reapplying for his licence.
“The law of P-plate cancellation versus disqualification is arbitrary and needs to be changed,” Mr Young said. “It’s harsh and I sympathise with you.”
Police Minister Michelle Roberts said 52 P-plate drivers were killed on WA roads in the past four years and it was “not that hard” to stick to the rules.
She urged Mr Young to consider the wider impact of softening the laws governing P-plate drivers.
“Unlike Magistrate Young, our roads can be unforgiving,” Mrs Roberts said. “There is no room for error.
“A provisional licence is just that — provisional. It’s not a right to a licence for all time. You’re required to demonstrate that you can take responsibility and keep within the road rules — it’s not that hard.
“If anyone thinks the laws for provisional drivers are too tough, they should speak with some of our first responders about what it feels like to cut young people out of a crash on a country road, or the police who ... have to go and tell mum and dad.”
Mr Young drew the ire of former police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan in 2017 when he let Dylan Robert Thomas walk free with a 12-month suspended jail term after he was convicted of two coward punches in one night.
At the time, Mr O’Callaghan labelled the decision “unacceptable”, while Mrs Roberts said there had been considerable public concern.
Shadow police minister Peter Katsambanis said the community expected the tough P-plate law to be upheld. “I never hear law-abiding citizens tell me our laws are too tough,” he said.
While he acknowledged his previous criticism of Mr Young, Mr O’Callaghan said he agreed with the magistrate’s view on the P-plate law.
He said there was a “huge cost to the community” to get P-platers to reapply for their licence and that resources could instead be used on education programs.
“I would like to see something else put in the system for probationary drivers who lose their licence, which is some form of education or tuition,” Mr O’Callaghan said.