Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fury as Queensland MP Dean Wells gets man off traffic charges

This sounds like a handy lawyer to know

A state Labor parliamentarian moonlighting as a barrister has angered police prosecutors by helping a constituent beat multiple traffic charges. Former attorney-general Dean Wells, now the Member for Murrumba, appeared in the Redcliffe Magistrate's Court on Tuesday to defend a 21-year-old constituent.

Nathan Kirby pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended licence but was "absolutely discharged" by Magistrate Alan Taylor after Mr Wells argued police should not have pursued such a "trivial matter".

The magistrate's ruling and Mr Wells' comments that the police prosecution of the matter amounted to an "abuse of process" have enraged police. Officers questioned why a member of government would want a repeat traffic offender to remain on the roads and avoid paying his fines.

Kirby lost his licence on May 24, 2009, as a result of an unpaid traffic fine for driving a defective vehicle. He had previously had his provisional licence suspended by the State Penalties Enforcement Registry after accumulating demerit points for speeding and other offences. When Kirby was stopped by police at 3am on July 10, he said he was not aware his licence had again been suspended by SPER. Police warned him not to drive and when he was intercepted 15 minutes later he was arrested.

Under Queensland law, anyone who is caught driving after a licence suspension faces an automatic disqualification for a minimum of one month.

Mr Wells said he agreed to represent Kirby free of charge because he was "a law-abiding citizen and a previous victim of crime". "The consequences of losing his licence for a month, which is what the legislation requires, means he would've lost one or both of his jobs," Mr Wells said. "Police don't have the discretion to let an unlicensed driver go but they do have the discretion not to prosecute."

Police told The Courier-Mail the magistrate's ruling was "blatantly ridiculous". "Millions of dollars are owed to SPER and now one of the Government's own members is helping offenders avoid paying fines," said an officer who did not want to be named.

But Mr Wells said it would have been unfair to penalise Kirby. "This kid is not a deliberate law breaker, he's just a kid who happened to be driving unbeknown to himself with a suspended licence," he said.

It is the third time Mr Wells has represented constituents, without charge, since being admitted as a barrister several years ago. He said the Integrity Commissioner had advised him his legal representation was not a conflict of interest, and was to be "commended, not criticised".,23739,26051142-3102,00.html

1 comment:

John A said...

WEll... Were I a LEO, I'd certainly be upset. And given the lad's history, quite rightly.

But otherwise, this is indeed trivial. Heck, I was once sentenced to jail (I immediately appealed and won) for first-offence drunk-driving, after watching a guy get released on his own recognizance for his twenty-third offense. Upset is not the word... Your defense attorney can make or break a case, and yes it does help to be [politically or socially] connected.