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Road Safety Council welcomes manslaughter offence for intoxicated drivers; penalties for liquor licence holders

Last Updated on Sunday, 15 May 2022, 11:52 by Denis Chabrol

The President of the Guyana Road Safety Council, Ramona Doergen on Sunday welcomed government’s plan to amend the law to permit the charging of intoxicated drivers with manslaughter if they cause death by dangerous driving.

She said  dating back to 2006 the Council had been advocating for the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act to be changed to allow for drivers, who cause death by dangerous driving while under the influence of alcohol or drug, to be charged with manslaughter. “We are always calling for motor manslaughter when there is drunk driving where the persons are found culpable,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

If approved by the National Assembly in its current form, the law would see motor manslaughter convicts being imprisoned for a maximum of 10 years or not less than five years for those causing grievous bodily harm.

The Road Safety Council President, however,  believed that the law should not allow the magistrate, judge and jury too much leverage to convict drivers for driving under the influence of drink or a drug if the court is not satisfied that the person’s driving was the cause of the death or the grievous bodily harm but is satisfied that the person is guilty of driving under the influence of drink or a
drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. “We will be discussing and having further consultations on how we can have it to a more extent that it is mandatory instead of just giving it to the magistrate to decide,” she said. Ms Doergen added that the law Road Safety Council’s sub-committee on law enforcement would likely be expanded to include the traffic magistrate and prosecutor.

The proposed amendment provides for the disqualification of drivers from holding or obtaining a licence for three years or permanent disqualification on a second conviction.

In relation to the offence of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle. Currently, the penalty is a fine ranging from $30,000 to $60,000 or imprisonment for twelve months and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction to a fine ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 and imprisonment.

The monetary penalties are amended to reflect for a first conviction a fine not less than $200,000 and for a second or subsequent conviction a fine not less than $300,000. Additionally, subsection (2) of this section is amended to provide that a person convicted under this section shall be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for twelve months. Where the person is convicted for two consecutive offences the person shall be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence for twenty-four months, and where there is a third conviction the person shall be permanently disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence.

Further, the law allows for a GY$100,000 fine or three months imprisonment if a driver fails to surrender his or her licence.

The Attorney General’s Chambers said the intended amendments would be open to public consultations. In response to the large number of motor vehicular accidents, inclusive of those resulting in fatalities on our public roadways, specifically caused by an unacceptable high incidence of drunken driving.

Those draft Bills can be accessed on the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs website www.mola.gov.gy and submissions and recommendations are hereby invited within twenty-one (21) days from the date hereof to [email protected]

The Road Council is also comforted that steps are being taken to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act to impose the responsibility of liquor licence holders not to permit any drunkenness on their premises nor sell, give or barter or allow another person to sell, give or barter
intoxicating liquor to a drunken person within the premises. “This not something new; this is not something strange that hasn’t worked anywhere else and we are most happy to see that these are the things that we have actually proposed and we are happy to see them coming to life,” the Council President said.  She hoped that the public and bar owners would see the economic benefit,” she said.

Additionally, the licence holder is  mandated to not sell, give or barter intoxicating liquor to a person he knows is likely to leave the premises by driving a motor vehicle unless a designated driver is identified.

Further the proposed amendment states that a liquor licence holder shall not sell, give or barter intoxicating liquor to a person identified as a designated driver, and if such licence holders are aware that a drunken person is attempting to drive or is in charge of a motor vehicle, he shall inform the nearest police station and request their immediate assistance. Moreover, a licence holder is also now required to conspicuously post signs and ensure that announcements are made, on the premises that discourage drinking and driving.

When passed by the National Assembly, if liquor licence holders commit any breaches, they would be fined GY$100,000 instead of GY$1,000 for a first and GY$200,000 instead of GY$5,000 for a second offence.

Under the new legislative regime of shared responsibility, the drivers would also be charged and fined if convicted, There will be an increase in the fine for the offence of driving or attempting to drive or being in charge of a vehicle on the road or other public place while the breath or blood alcohol levels exceed the prescribed limits.  Currently, the penalty is a fine of $7500 but the explanatory memorandum for the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act states the new fine is expected to be GY$200,000. and  the period of disqualification of holding or
obtaining a licence where the person is charged with two consecutive offences from twelve months to twenty-four months.