Crackdown on serial drink-drivers

Drivers who habitually flout licence suspension laws could face tougher penalties after the State Government said yesterday it would investigate changes in the wake of the case of the serial drink-driver who has repeatedly driven while disqualified since killing schoolgirl Jess Meehan.

Mitchell William Donald Walsh was this week sentenced to nine months jail and had his licence suspended for 15 months after he admitted his eighth driving under suspension charge.

Walsh had a blood alcohol reading of 0.165 when he knocked down Jess in 2003.

His acquittal over the death prompted changes for drivers who killed or seriously injured people after getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.15.

Former Labor MP Dianne Guise, who campaigned for changes on behalf of the Meehan family, said she was glad Walsh had finally been sentenced to a jail term, but was appalled he had had his licence suspended only for another 15 months.

Peter Palamara, from the Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre, said mandatory jail terms should be considered for people who repeatedly drove under suspension.

"It is particularly difficult to deal with unlicensed drivers," Mr Palamara said.

"The big stick in the end is just shipping them off to jail and I don't think people really want to do that for traffic offences. I think there is a general reluctance to do that.

"But . . . you have to say there has to be a point and that is it, jail is mandatory."

Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the problem was Walsh drove regardless of whether he had a licence.

"I will be conferring with my colleagues the Police Minister and the Attorney-General to find a solution to situations where people habitually flout the laws around suspension," he said.

The West Australian

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