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Howard's End: Raising Revenue From Boy Racers

In a typical knee-jerk reaction to the problem of street racers, both local and central government politicians are all jumping on the bandwagon wanting to introduce yet another law, this time to be called the Land Transport (Street and Illegal Drag Racing) Amendment Bill. So why aren't the police enforcing the laws which already exist? Maree Howard writes.

The first political reaction to any problem which seems to arise in New Zealand is to introduce yet another draconian new law - that'll keep the punters happy.

Crap!

The new street racing Bill would give police the discretionary power to impound a first offenders vehicle at the road side for 28 days. A fine of up to $4,500 could also be faced if a person is then found guilty in a court. They could also face a loss of licence. Second offences carry even stiffer penalties.

A boy racer got shot in Manukau last weekend allegedly by rival boy racer groups. Pray tell how the new Bill will stop that or anybody else who is crazy enough to shoot at people? The simple answer is that it won't.

Politicians from all sides are saying there is a growing problem of some young, irresponsible hoons in our communities. They say the time and effort these young people put into their cars means that confiscation as a deterrent is likely to decrease significantly the amount of illegal and reckless behaviour we see around some streets.

Pardon? - "Illegal and reckless behaviour."

If it's already illegal as the politicians are now saying, then why isn't it already being stopped by the police using the existing laws?

If police are not enforcing existing law, could it be that this Government confiscation scam of vehicles is yet another revenue-raising exercise? Following scrutiny of the new Bill many are saying that's exactly what it is. And it doesn't seem to apply to just boy street racing - it appears to cast a much wider net outwards to the general public.

Two cars speeding side-by-side down a motorway and driven by members of the blue-rinse brigade or the Remuera-set now seems to constitute a drag - even though they may have no connection whatsoever.

OK, the police have a discretionary power but what if the cop simply doesn't like someone - it happens. Oops there goes another car to the pound.

So what laws can the police already enforce which would stop boy street racers in their tracks - if that's the true reason for this new Bill?

Section 86 of the Crimes Act - Unlawful Assembly. - " An unlawful asembly is an assembly of 3 or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner, or so conduct themselves when assembled, or to cause persons in the neighbourhood of the assembly to fear, on reasonable grounds, that the persons assembled -

(a) Will use violence against people or property in that neighbourhood or elsewhere; or

(b) Will, by that assembly, needlessly and without reasonable cause provoke other persons to use violence against persons or property in that neighbourhood:......."

It goes on, but you get the thrust of the existing law which the police don't seem to want to enforce. Why not?

The penalty?

"Any member of an unlawful assembly is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year."

So we don't want to clog up the police cells, and we don't want to bring them before a court the next day and we don't want them in jail for a year - all that is just too hard and too costly.

So, let's take the easy law option and simply confiscate their cars and raise some money for the Government coffers at the same time.

It'll be interesting to see just how many old $500 Mazda hatchbacks with tweaked motors now start to appear and be raced while the "cool" car is left at home in the garage. In my day it was the FE or the FJ Holden and the Ford V8 Pilot. So nothing's changed - except we were called bodgies (boys) and widgies (girls) - But we still street- raced.

In the absence of any other valid reason for this Bill - and I can't think of one - the politicians typically take the easy way out and legislate new laws into being. It's so easy, stroke of the pen, law of the land. But it makes the rule of law and enforcement of existing law an ass! And laws won't solve the problem - it never has, and it never will.

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