Protesters outside Lismore Court House against saliva testing for drug drivers.Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Protesters outside Lismore Court House against saliva testing for drug drivers.Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

Drug driving case highlights ‘nonsensical’ laws

A "STRANGE glitch" in drug driving legislation was highlighted again in Lismore Local Court yesterday.

Lismore man Jhonny Ferguson - described in court by his solicitor Steve Bolt as a "weekend smoker" - had tested positive for cannabis at roadside drug tests three times between May 1 and June 5. These three charges were all listed before the court on the one day.

Three first offences

Magistrate David Heilpern said it "defied common sense" but he had no option but to treat the three charges as first offences due to what he described as a "strange glitch in the legislation".

Despite the 'prolific' nature of the offences, Mr Ferguson's license was disqualified for only three months in total as the penalties for the three charges, treated as first offences, were not cumulative.

"By the second offence (the defendant) knew the gauntlet he was running," Mr Heilpern said.

Magistrate Heilpern said by the third offence it was "inappropriate to order a Section 10" but explained, under the existing legislation, he had no option.

"There is a strange glitch in the legislation," he said.

Penalities not cumulative

When asked by Mr Bolt if the licence disqualification penalties would be cumulative, Mr Heilpern said: "I've tried to work it out ... but I can only tick a box that says three months," he said.

Mr Ferguson, who proved he was completely free of all traces of cannabis in recent months, is the sole driver for his tight-knit, extended family.

Magistrate Heilpern also used Ferguson's case to again throw another barb at drug driving laws, which he reminded the court, "does not test driver impairment".

"It was never the intention of parliament that someone who smoked cannabis on the weekend should test positive five days later and lose their licence as a result," he said.



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