By AZARD ALI Wednesday, April 15 2015
VETERAN Justice of the Peace, Ackbar Khan, believes drunk drivers should be jailed, or in the least, given community work to clean the streets of wrecked derelict vehicles.
Khan expressed disagreement with a magistrate in San Fernando over her adjudication on Monday of 21 drunk drivers by sending them to Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meetings.
It is a slap in the face of hardworking police officers, he said, who arrest drunk drivers of motor vehicles during what he described as “unearthly” hours of the night.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Sherene Murray-Bailey opted to adopt a course of sentencing, in which all 21 were asked to attend AA counselling sessions, then to return for sentencing. One of the drivers has a previous conviction for failing a breathalyser test, and another was so drunk, that he drove north on the south- bound lane and caused vehicles to veer off the road. One such vehicle ran off the road.
Khan, who has been an outspoken JP on the criminal justice system and policing, said, “I am very disappointed with the magistrate.” He explained that upon being charged with failing a breathalyser test, a driver is deemed to be driving under the influence of alcohol and therefore is a danger to life and limb on the nation’s road. “He is willfully disobeying the law. When he is asked to attend AA meetings, it is expected that he would get a very lenient sentence. How many drunk drivers have lost their lives, have killed other people on the nation’s roads, and have maimed for life, hundreds of people? And, you sending drunk drivers to AA meetings when we have the Breathalyser law which stipulates the fines to be imposed, including jail and disqualification from driving?”
Murray-Bailey’s opting to recommend counselling, was a mark distinction from the hefty fines imposed by Senior Magistrate Gloria Jasmath who also last week disqualified drunk drivers who were second timers. Magistrate Nalini Singh also imposed fines and even ordered the drivers to pay promptly, or face imprisonment.
Khan said yesterday that the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act should be amended to give magistrates the power to, instead, send drunk drivers to perform community service, namely, street cleaning. Second timers, he said, should be disqualified automatically and there should be mandatory sentence of jail, for drivers charged on a third occasion.
Khan said, “Drunk drivers are a menace in the society; they have no regard for other road users. Could you imagine your daughter or mother driving on the road, and a drunk driver recklessly overtaking and cutting in and out. Look at the driver who was on the south-bound lane on his way — north.”