The Honourable Rob Hulls, M.P. Attorney General Justice Department of Victoria Level 1, 55 Andrews Place, East Melbourne. 3002 19th November, 2004. Dear Minister, I am writing regarding some specific concerns in relation to our legal system. I am not currently working but have previously served 10 years as a member of the Victoria Police and spent some time working as a Police Prosecutor. On numerous occasions I have had to deal with what can only be termed as ‘soft Magistrates’. As police members we are trained to prepare briefs and give evidence to the best of our ability and to leave the rest to our legal system. As a result of this training we are able to control our emotions when it comes to verdicts and sentencing but for the victims this is not the case. I am now writing to you as one of the victims. My brother was recently killed in a hit run accident by a drunk driver who was almost three times over the legal alcohol limit. The 27 year old female driver was interviewed by the Major Collisions Squad early hours of Sunday morning and was bailed to appear at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court the following morning. One of the conditions of her bail was that she not drive a motor vehicle. I was present in court the following day when the matter came before Magistrate Ian Gray in court one. The female was represented by Counsel who immediately made application for a bail variation regarding her driving. A summary was heard from Police and her counsel made a brief submission to the court on her behalf. The court was told that she worked for a company in Campbellfield as a sales representative and her duties included driving for company business. The Magistrate Ian Gray asked, (not quoting) whether she knew if the existing bail condition would in fact cause hardship at work resulting in a loss of her job or her livelihood. In the next breath he then answered his own question by saying that he guessed she didn’t know the answer to that. It was plainly clear at this point that he was going to grant the application. Counsel explained that she worked from 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with no extended hours. He also explained that she worked three of those days at the office and the other two away from the office interacting with customers. Magistrate Ian Gray ruled that her bail be varied to allow her to drive during the hours of 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday for work purposes only. It was also clarified, at the request of the prosecutor, that this did not include travel to and from work and that she needed to arrange some other form of transport for these journeys. I am absolutely astounded at the ease with which the application to vary bail was granted. There was absolutely no evidence or documentation put before the court to show that the existing bail condition would in fact affect her employment. Counsel did not provide a letter from her employer or any other basis for their application other than speculation. How does a person who has proven by their own actions that they cannot be a responsible, safe driver on our roads, suddenly become responsible and safe during the hours of 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday whilst they are at work? How does a person who killed another innocent motorist, who was driving a company vehicle whilst under the influence of excessive alcohol still have a job to talk of during a bail variation application? Did Mr Gray ask this question? I am now sitting on the other side of the fence, it is my turn to have the police member who has just diligently completed his role in the court proceedings, explain the logic and fairness of this decision. This person, whilst affected by alcohol, drove a vehicle and killed another motorist, and then failed to stop and render assistance, and less than 48 hours later they are allowed to drive home from Court. The fundamental question for me will forever remain the same, this person killed another motorist, they made choices - to drink excessively and drive, to hit another human being with their vehicle and then fail to even consider rendering assistance and yet they still are seen fit to retain the privilege of holding a licence? When are these ‘soft Magistrates’ going to consider the innocent victims in these matters? She (the accused) made her choices, she decided to get behind the wheel of her car that night. At 27 years of age she is not inexperienced. Hers was not an error in judgement but a blatant disregard for our laws. As a result, we, as family and friends, are all victims. We weren’t given a choice. I understand that for alcohol readings of 0.15% or higher the law allows for immediate loss of licence, prior to any court hearing proving guilt or innocence. Surely with an alcohol reading only marginally below this and after a hit run motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of an innocent person, a bail condition prohibiting a person from driving a motor vehicle is not unreasonable. Our Magistrates have choices, they have some discretion. When are the rights and feelings of family and friends who fall victim to the careless and culpable actions of others going to be considered? I have attached a copy of a letter that I wrote shortly after my brothers death which highlights the impact other peoples choices have on our lives. The accused who appear before our courts should be held accountable for their actions just as our Magistrates should be for their decision making process. Yours Sincerely, D. J. McMellan. [attachment] The Rose And The Thorn Can someone please tell me why the thorn lives on but the rose must die. It was just another Saturday night. Heading out the door to celebrate a friends 40th birthday when the phone rang. A man on his motorbike, a brother; a son; an uncle; a stepfather; a grandfather; a best friend; a lover; a mate; a husband to be; on his way home from work. Something we all do everyday - only this time he wouldn’t make it. Ironically, she too was on her way home, not from work but from an afternoon drinking with a friend. Whoever would have thought that their paths would cross and result in such tragedy. So many lives changed forever. So many people suffering. Should she too suffer? Should she too be made to pay with her life, her freedom? They say revenge is sweet, an eye for an eye, but it wont bring my brother back. Why should these people be given a second chance at being responsible on our roads. I can only hope that our legal system is strong enough to prevent history repeating itself in the future. Debbie McMellan.