Only one in nine disqualified drivers sent to prison, SA-BEST figures reveal

21 September 2021

Only one in nine motorists convicted by the courts of driving a vehicle while disqualified actually serves time in prison, new statistics unveiled today by SA-BEST reveal. 

SA-BEST MLC and Transport and Infrastructure spokesman, Frank Pangallo, today released disturbing figures which highlight lenient sentences being handed out by the state’s judicial system. 

Frank plans to meet with all related stakeholders to discuss this ongoing road safety scourge – including potential new legislation for compulsory prison terms for habitual disqualified drivers. 

The startling statistics - uncovered by SA-BEST as part of a Freedom of Information (FoI) application to the Court Administration Authority - showed that of the near 11,000 motorists convicted for driving while disqualified over the past five years (up until 31 May this year), only 1243 – or 11.3 per cent – were sent to jail. 

This is despite a person found guilty of driving while disqualified under current laws faces a maximum of six months in jail for the first offence and two years' imprisonment for subsequent offending. 

Conversely, 4910 - or nearly 45% - of motorists convicted of driving while disqualified received only a fine and/or a good behaviour bond and/or had the vehicles impounded for a period of time. 

A further 4248 motorists – or 39 per cent of convicted disqualified motorists – received a suspended sentence while another 870 were sentenced without a conviction being recorded. 

Frank said the statistics were a clear sign the justice system was failing to meet community expectations. 

“These startling statistics are further proof the judicial system isn’t doing enough to appropriately penalise motorists who blatantly flout our road rules by driving when they know they shouldn’t,” Frank said. 

“These shocking figures fail community expectations and are further evidence our judicial system is being too soft on disqualified drivers who deliberately ignore our road rules and put innocent lives at risk,” he said. 

“Tragic stories of disqualified drivers killing and/or seriously injuring innocent motorists and other road users come constantly before the courts – the very same courts giving disqualified drivers slaps on the wrist! 

“These disturbing figures come out a time when death and injuries on our roads are rising. 

“It’s time our courts started handing out tougher, more appropriate prison terms for habitual disqualified drivers – maybe to include compulsory terms of imprisonment for repeat offenders.” 

The statistics revealed 2020/21 (up until 31 May) is on track to be the worst for disqualified drivers being sent to prison with only 8.9% of convicted offenders being imprisoned. 

The statistics also showed: 

  • only 344 of 2682 (12.8%) convicted disqualified drivers were sent to prison in 2016/17. 
  • only 275 of 2646 (10.4%) convicted disqualified drivers were sent to prison in 2017/18. 
  • only 272 of 2466 (11%) convicted disqualified drivers were sent to prison in 2018/19. 
  • only 264 of 2313 (11.4%) convicted disqualified drivers were sent to prison in 2019/20, and. 
  • only 244 of 2720 (8.9%) convicted disqualified drivers were sent to prison up until the end of May 2020/21. 

The worst offender over the five-year period (to 31May 2021), was a motorist charged with 21 counts of driving while disqualified over two separate court cases. For their first conviction in 2018, they were sentenced to a prison term of eight months and three weeks.  For their second conviction in 2020, they received eight month and three weeks imprisonment. 

Another motorist was sentenced for 19 charges of driving while disqualified in four separate court cases and receiving prison sentences of five months and 18 days; 21 days; two months; and seven months respectively. 

(NB: some of these convictions/penalties also included other offences). 

While Frank welcomed plans by the State Government to increase maximum penalties for motorists who drive while disqualified, these latest statistics showed the judicial system was shying away from imposing the full wrath of the current laws. 

These most recent statistics follows the disturbing revelation as part of a special investigation by SA-BEST earlier this year which found thousands of South Australia’s worst drivers - some of whom have killed or injured innocent people – were continuing to drive while disqualified. 

In one horrifying case, a motorist was reported or arrested 43 times over a 12-month period for driving while disqualified. 

In 12 other separate instances, drivers were busted driving while their licences were disqualified 22 times or more over a five-year period from 2015/16. 

Further, 6570 drivers were reported or arrested for driving while disqualified between two and five times over the same period of time. 

“It’s clear our current laws around driving while disqualified aren’t working – in fact, in thousands of cases, they’re appalling,” Frank said. 

“It questionable the increased penalties being proposed by the State Government will also fail the grade if the court system fails to take a tough stance against motorists who deliberately get behind a vehicle while knowingly disqualified from doing so,” he said. 

“These disturbing statistics should serve as a salient road safety message as it’s a well-known fact disqualified have killed and/or seriously injured innocent people on our roads. 

“These reckless idiots are on par with hoon drivers who are putting innocent lives at risk and it would be frustrating for police that they keep getting a slap on the wrist. 

“They need to be stopped!”

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