Thursday, March 09, 2006

Making the same mistake again

A couple of months ago, there was public outrage at amendments to the Land Transport Act 1998 which stripped taxi and bus drivers of their licences (and jobs) for offences committed a long time ago. The government acted quickly and promised to amend the bill to fix the problem as soon as Parliament resumed. The amendments were introduced to Parliament last month as the Land Transport Amendment Bill and unanimously sent to select committee. Now the committee has reported back [PDF], and it looks as if they've suffered from the same moral panic and desire to be mindlessly punitive and "tough on crime" as they did last time. The provisions relating to the reinstatement of licences have been completely rewritten, and while the committee has allowed an exception for those with convictions for underage sex, they have at the same time removed any possibility of reinstatement for those with convictions for violent offences (previously, reinstatement was possible if there had been no other conviction for ten years - if, in other words, the applicant had been rehabilitated). The net effect will be to replicate the very mistake the bill was supposed to fix - only for different people.

This isn't what the government promised, and it isn't what the public wanted. It is neither fair nor just to heap additional penalties on criminals after conviction. And it is certainly neither fair not just to deny those victimised in such a fashion any way of remedying their situation. This law must be changed, at the minimum to reinstate the "10 year" clause and allow a right of appeal for everyone denied a licence on the basis of past convictions. Otherwise, we will simply be perpetuating the injustices we set out to correct.