On 22 November 2013, following a jury trial, the Supreme Court of Queensland sentenced Mr. Tony Anderson to serve effectively 8 years imprisonment for a ‘serious violent offence’. The court also disqualified him indefinitely from holding or obtaining a drivers licence.
On 12 October 2021, in Anderson v Commissioner of Police  QSC 254, Her Honour Justice Bowskill SJA of the Supreme Court of Queensland revoked the absolute disqualification, allowing Mr Anderson the privilege of being able to drive.
The application was made pursuant to section 131(10) of the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act which provides:
“A person who has been disqualified, by operation of law or an order, from holding or obtaining a Queensland driver licence absolutely or for a period of more than 2 years, may, at any time after the expiration of 2 years from the start of the disqualification period, apply for the disqualification to be removed.”
As such, an order under section 131(10) is subject to judicial discretion having regard to a number of factors as set out in section 131(14) below:
“Upon hearing any such application, the judge of the Supreme Court … may, as is thought proper, having regard to the character of the person disqualified and the person’s conduct subsequent to the order, the nature of the offence, and any other circumstances of the case, either by order remove the disqualification as from such date as may be specified in the order or refuse the application.” (emphasis added)
Any unsuccessful applicant is unable to apply again for this order for a further 12 months.
It was submitted on behalf of Mr Anderson that it was in the interests of justice in an overall sense for Her Honour Justice Bowskill to revoke the disqualification. This was having regard to the evidence that Mr Anderson had, among other things, taken significant steps to re-connect with his family, found gainful employment, and showed a demonstrable change in character since his offending in April 2012.
It was submitted that, without a licence, the applicant was cut off from large sectors of employment (he worked as a forklift driver/labourer and was missing opportunity for work in more rural areas). The applicant had further completed a number of university and TAFE courses and whilst incarcerated he had completed The Sycamore Tree Project with Prison Fellowship Australia and a substance intervention rehabilitation program with the Salvation Army.
The Commissioner of Police opposed the application on the basis that, while Mr Anderson had taken meaningful steps to re-integrate into the community, the application was premature. It was submitted that Mr Anderson had only been in the community for a period of 10 months and as such Mr Anderson had not spent sufficient time in the community to justify the revocation of the order.
Her Honour Justice Bowskill SJA was persuaded that it was “thought proper” for the licence disqualification to be revoked. Her Honour summarised the factors which supported the application in paragraph 36 of her judgment:
“In the present case, there are a number of factors which supports the exercise of the discretion to remove the disqualification now, namely:
- the particular nature of the offending behaviour;
- the absence of traffic history or otherwise;
- the lengthy period of imprisonment the applicant has already served, which is the significant punishment for his offending, and should be seen to satisfy the community’s demand for punishment;
- that the applicant has not reoffended, or acted in breach of the disqualification, since his release from custody, and has been curtailed by the disqualification for 10 months since his release from custody;
- the efforts the applicant has already made, since his release from custody, to obtain employment, including by obtaining a qualification in order to do so, which demonstrate a good work ethic, and a willingness to put into action his words about wishing to make a better life for himself and his family, and become a productive member of the community;
- that the applicant’s efforts in that regard are all the more commendable, given the significant periods of time he has spent in custody since he was 17 years of age;
- the evidence of the applicant’s engagement in education programs, whilst in custody, which is consistent with the applicant’s description of himself as having matured since he committed the 2012 offences which lead to the disqualification;
- the practical reality that the applicant will be impeded in the range and type of work he is able to obtain, and keep, without the ability to obtain a driver licence;
- that the community’s demand for punishment is appropriately to be balanced with the community’s interest in facilitating the rehabilitation of offenders; and,
- to that end, that it is in the interests of the community that the applicant be able to work, so that he has the opportunity and incentive to be and remain a self-sufficient, law abiding and productive member of the community.” (emphasis added)
The decision is an encouraging and uplifting story about a member of our community who has previously spent most of his adult life incarcerated. The ability to drive will greatly further his endeavours to become a productive and valuable member of society and will further his endeavours to, “sincerely trying to start my life again”.
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This article was written with consent for publication from the party involved.