Police Minister Rob Johnson has been forced to water down the Government's hoon laws after police seized a Perth GP's Lamborghini sports car worth $200,000 which his mechanic was caught driving at 160km/h.
Just hours after defending the laws and insisting they would not be reviewed unless there was a spate of similar incidents, Mr Johnson said he had decided the legislation should be changed so the Lamborghini case could not be repeated.
Under the new laws which took effect on New Year's Day, a person charged with a first hoon offence has their car impounded for 28 days instead of seven and police no longer have the discretion to decide to impound the car.
Mr Johnson suffered a barrage of criticism after Patrick Nugawela had his luxury car seized for 28 days when officers in an unmarked car allegedly clocked his 53-year-old mechanic driving it at more than 60km/h over the speed limit on Reid Highway on Wednesday.
He stood firm for 48 hours before succumbing to public pressure and announcing that there was "room for a minor amendment which may allow for the substitution of an offender's vehicle in place of an innocent person's vehicle".
"I envisage that this change will apply to legitimate registered providers of a service that the owner was paying for," he told 6PR. "I've listened to the community and at the end of the day, I want the community to support these anti-hoon laws because they are designed to protect the community." The WA Law Society applauded the decision but called on the Government to go further and scrap the legislation.
"This is yet another example of this Government passing a law which affects completely innocent people and deprives them of their rights and in this case property," society president Hylton Quail said.
"There was no need for the hoon legislation to be toughened up. The laws that we had were already just about the toughest in Australia."
Opposition Leader Eric Ripper said Mr Johnson's backflip was evidence that "the Premier has once again been forced to intervene to overrule an incompetent Minister".
"In his bid to look tough on crime the Minister adopted a stupid and extreme position," he said. "This case highlighted a clear injustice and Labor welcomes the fact that commonsense has finally prevailed."
Mount Lawley man Leone Antonino Magistro, 53, from Delta Auto in Malaga, was charged with reckless driving over the incident and will appear in the Perth Magistrate's Court on February 2.
Dr Nugawela, who left his car at the garage for maintenance, appealed to police to free his car under the "extraordinary hardship" provisions of the laws but his bid was rejected.
Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said police had reviewed the case but had received legal advice that it did not fit the criteria for "extraordinary hardship". To qualify, someone would need extraordinary circumstances, such as an illness requiring their own transport.