The loophole had left magistrates with discretionary sentencing powers in dealing with drivers caught caught driving dangerously or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Anyone convicted will now face mandatory disqualification.
Transport Minister, Shawn Crockwell, who introduced the Traffic Offences (Penalties) Amendment Act 2013 in the House of Assembly said that a 2012 amendment had omitted the word “obligatory” in describing sentences for the various offences.
Driving while impaired or refusing to submit to a breath test now attracts a mandatory 18-month driving ban for the first offence. A three-year ban is to be imposed for a second offence and subsequent offences carry a five-year ban.
The amendment also addresses people who drive a motor car, auxiliary bicycle, cycle, or any other vehicle other than a motor car while under the influence of a dangerous drug.
The offence carries the same penalty as driving while impaired by alcohol, with repeat offenders facing fines of up to US$5,000, a ban of up to five years and as many as 12 traffic point demerits.
Offenders are also potentially subject to a period of imprisonment for up to a year on the first offence, 18 months on the second offence and two years for subsequent offences.
Crockwell explained that the law still allowed some discretion in sentencing but it was restricted to “special reasons” attached to the circumstances of the incident not the individual.
“Examples of special reasons might include driving someone to hospital while over the alcohol limit, driving to rescue a person from a danger and speeding to get there, driving whilst over the limit after your drinks have been spiked or laced,” he said.
Gaylynne Cannonier, the 48-year-old sister of Premier Craig Cannonier, recently escaped a driving disqualification because magistrates still had the discretion not to impose a ban if they saw fit.
Cannonier, who ran unsuccessfully in St David’s for the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) in last December’s general election, walked away from Magistrates’ Court with a $1,500 fine imposed by Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner and seven demerit points on her licence rather than a ban for drunk driving.