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Road Traffic Act Amendments Open to Abuse


The Police Minister's new confiscation laws have had their second reading in Parliament.

  Download the Proposed Legislation

These laws have the potential for extremely serious consequences which could cost families thousands of dollars for doing nothing other than riding on bush trails.

Here's what the law will allow:

1. Police can impound any unregistered motorcycle caught riding on any road, if the motorcycle has not been registered within the past two years. (Section 80O) Note: a 'road' as defined by the Road Traffic Act is just about any public place and includes all state forest tracks.

2. Police can impound an unregistered motorcycle if they 'reasonably suspect' that it was ridden on a road. (Section 80O). No burden of proof there.

3. Police can issue a surrender notice up to 28 days after they 'suspect' an unregistered motorcycle was used on a road, and once served the owner of the motorcycle must surrender the vehicle to police. (Section 80P)

4. If a motorcycle is impounded, its owner can claim it back within 14 days ONLY if they can prove that a) they were not riding it, b) they are not a member of the rider's immediate family and c) the illegal use of the motorcycle occurred without their knowledge and consent. (Section 80S)

5. Once a motorcycle has been impounded, and unless the owner can satisfy the conditions above, the motorcycle is automatically deemed confiscated and the property in the motorcycle 'vests absolutely in the State, free from all rights, titles or claims in or to the ownership or possession of the motorcycle'. In other words, consider it gone. Forever. (Section 80T).

6. There does appear to be some mechanism for getting a motorcycle returned, but only by applying to a Magistrates Court for an order that the item be returned. (S80V) The legislation says nothing about what circumstances would lead a Magistrate to grant such an order, so in the absence of any legal reason it is difficult to see how a Magistrate could justify returning the vehicle.

RTRA Position

The RTRA does not condone riding unregistered motorcycles on suburban roads, however as it is written, this law applies to all and any roads where the Road Traffic Act applies, including quiet bush trails and unofficially condoned riding areas such as Metro Road. In an extreme case, a policeman could spot a car and trailer at Metro Road, look up the licence plate, pay the owner a visit, see that the kids all have unregistered bikes, 'reasonably suspect' that those bikes were used at Metro Road, and confiscate them.

We're not saying that this is the intent of the law - we know it's intended to help get rid of hoons in suburban areas. But the potential for serious abuse is there and the consequential penalties could be insanely out of proportion to the 'crime'.

Proposed Action

We are unlikely to be able to get this law rejected, but we may just still have time to get an amendment incorporated that would reduce or eliminate the risk of the situation outlined above. There is a mechanism in other parts of the act, relating to hoons in cars, that define a 'confiscation zone' as a place where the speed limit is 50kph or within a school zone.

If this confiscation zone concept were to also be applied to the section relating to confiscation of motorcycles it would enable the intent of the legislation while protecting recreational family off road riders.

The RTRA has written to all government and opposition Ministers and we are seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister for Police.

We urge all members to take action on this issue. We are currently obtaining legal advice and preparing a letter template you will be able to use to write to your local MP.

Please enter your name and email address below and we will notify you when the template is available.

We'll keep members up to date with developments.

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