MOTOR VEHICLES AND ROAD TRAFFIC (AMENDMENT) BILL 2013, BILL NO. 8 OF 2013
Mr. Rohee: Thank you Mr. Speaker, the struggle continues.
Mr. Speaker: La luta continua
Mr. Rohee: Mr. Speaker in anticipation of the Opposition adopting a similar posture as they did in the previous Bill, and I have no reason to doubt they will, I would still prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to use the tone that was used by the Attorney General when he sought to position the amendments to the Evidence Act in the context of changes taking place within our economic and social environment. This Bill before us has to be seen in a similar light. Whereas the first Bill is related to the criminal justice system and in fact seeking to bring greater acceleration to matters before the courts in a way that was described by the Attorney General, I believe this one is also similarly destined. The peculiarity, however, with this Bill is that it seeks in the current context to address the question of vehicles used in the commission of a crime. If I am to leave this National Assembly now and go to any location where people would usually congregate, be it a market place, a shopping plaza, a street corner or a social event, and seek to solicit their views on the question of motor vehicles being used in the commission of a crime I do not think I would find it rare if the majority of such persons questioned would be unanimous that in today’s society, be it Guyana or any other developed or industrialised country, motor vehicles are currently being used to commission crimes – drive by shootings, execution shootings, robberies, hit and run. There are so many of them taking place with the use of a vehicle which modern criminologist are now describing as a weapon to execute or to commission a crime. This Bill seeks to capture the challenge of vehicles being used in the commission of a crime and to block all possible loopholes in the law that are used by persons to prevent those who use a vehicle in the commission of a crime from facing the full brunt of the law.
Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to expand the definition of ownership because many times when a person is found, or a vehicle is found there are a thousand and one questions that are raised about who is the owner, and many times cases collapse as a result of this matter not being clearly defined. Definition of owner for the purpose of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act is to include a person who is in possession of a motor vehicle under a sales agreement, a power of attorney, or a Bill of sale. These are the usual transactions under which or through which persons become owners of vehicles. It was therefore considered necessary to include those persons who, although they are not registered owners of the vehicles may be in possession of a motor vehicle, or even enjoy the benefits of the ownership, but are not subject to the obligations of the owner, This Bill seeks to capture such persons in this Bill. I should point out before continuing, that this Bill could be described as a composite Bill. It is composite in the sense that it seeks to address a range of independent matters which necessitates amendments of the principle act. The first question we are seeking to address is the question of ownership.
The second question is to be found in clause 3 of the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill which facilitates, through the amendment to Section 10(1) of the Act, the tightening up of the registration of motor vehicles. For example, when there is a change of ownership of the motor vehicles which necessitates a change in the registered owner, otherwise than by death, the proposed amendment to this section seeks to detail the procedure that must be followed after both the registered owner, and the person into whose possession the motor vehicle has passed, apply in writing, providing the relevant details in respect of the change of possession, to the licensing officer within a seven day period subsequent to the change of possession. So what we are seeking to do here is to tighten up the procedure for the change of ownership from one person to the other. These amendments require that the vehicle must be brought to the licensing officer. The registered owner and the newly intended owner must be present when the licensing officer enters into the register and the certificate of registration the name and address of the person into whose possession the vehicle has passed. The effect of which is that the later is deemed the registered owner of the vehicle.
The proposed Section (10) (1) (c) caters for instances where a company is involved requiring that a letter of authorisation, signed by a director of the company, authorising the representative to act on behalf of the company, to be produced to the licensing officer. This may seem to be rather tedious in nature, but unless we do what could be described as tedious person will continue to escape the full brunt of the law.
Provision was made for the insertion of a section 10(4) whereby if the registration is not effected as required the person into whose possession the motor vehicle is now passed is vested with the rights, powers and liabilities as if they are the registered owner of the vehicle. All of this has to be completed within 7 days after the change of possession of the vehicle takes place. Were this not to happen a fine of $150,000 and, not or, to the imprisonment of three months would be the penalty that the defaulter would have to submit to.
There is another composite act in this Bill which has to do with the demerits points system. The traffic ticket system under the Summary Jurisdiction Procedure Act Chapter 1:02 is not accompanied by a general demerits point system as employed in other jurisdictions.
It may be recalled, I think it was in the previous Parliament, 2008, when we sought to amend the Evidence and Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Amendment Act, Section 103.1 of that aAct, to make provision by inserting a paragraph which would read:
“The procedure for the assignment of points on conviction of certain offences known as the demerit point system”
Upon the enactment of that Act, that is Section 104.1 (a) of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, would have empowered the Minister of Home Affairs, subject to negative resolution – I am sorry that it is not ‘revolution’, it should have been for positive resolution – to make regulations for “assignment of points on conviction of certain offences known as the demerit point system”. In other words, if a person would have committed so many traffic offences the demerit point system would have applied on the commitment of each offense so that by the time the third and most serious traffic offence would have been committed the demerit point system application would have denied that person a driver’s license and prohibition from driving a vehicle on the roads of this jurisdiction. It was, nevertheless, however, discovered that in attempting to draft legislation in attempting to establish a comprehensive demerit point system we were confronted with certain limitations and that any regulation which includes a provision that a person be disqualified by the licensing authority from holding or obtaining a driver’s license after the accumulation of certain demerit points would clearly be out of Section 104.1 and therefore the regulation making power of the Minister of Home Affairs. Therefore we found that further penalties envisaged by the demerit point system would exceed the maximum penalty of $30,000 provided under Section 104.3 of the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act and that it is why it is now deemed better and more effective to proceed by amending the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act to provide for the demerit point system while deleting Section 104.1 so that at the end of all this clause 4 (a) of this Bill seeks to establish a comprehensive regime for the administration of the demerit point system. In other words, we create new sections, 33 (a) to 33 (h).
The introduction of these new Sections has to be read together or, as the lawyers would say mutatis mutandis with clause 8 which inserts a third schedule that lists the offences captured under the demerit point system and specify the demerit points there in. All this may appear to be rather technical but it cannot be otherwise less there be room or space for misinterpretation. We had to be as detailed as this in addressing this particular aspect.
The motor vehicle used in the commission of an offence in this respect, clause 6 introduces an offence under a new Section 108 (a):
“Where a person who drives or operates a motor vehicle used in the commission of an offence [read to mean ‘crime’] for which the penalty is not less than six months imprisonment or who uses the motor vehicle to facilitate the commission of such an offence shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of $150,000 and to imprisonment for 12 months and shall be disqualified [this is how the demerit point system will now kick in, in addition to the monetary fine and the imprisonment, the person will be disqualified] for a period of two years from the date of conviction from holding or obtaining a driver’s license.”
Finally, on the question of failure to report loss or a stolen motor vehicle because there are some persons who rent their vehicles and then all of a sudden they claim that it was lost or stolen or a vehicle may have been legitimately stolen or lost for some reason or the other, whatever the situation might be, failure to report the loss or theft of a motor vehicle in clause 7 of the Bill there is the creation of an offense under a new Section 109 (a) where if the registered owner of a motor vehicle that has been lost or stolen fails to report to a police station within seven days of the loss or theft he or she shall be liable on summary conviction of a fine of $40,000 so one is now obligated under the law to report within seven days the theft or the loss of this vehicle because, at the end of the day, it is not unusual that vehicle used in the commission of a crime could find itself caught up in these legal conundrums thus allowing either the vehicle to return to whoever claims to be the owner or the part owner or the ‘lendee’ or the ‘leasee’ or ‘rentee’ to get off from the crime committed. I believe that this Bill calls on this House for it to be supported. Those who stand on the side of the fight against crime, those who stand against the use of vehicles used in the commission of a crime, ought not to have any difficulty whatsoever in supporting this Bill. Thank you. [Applause]
Mr. Rohee (replying): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can only repeat what I said earlier with respect to the amendment to the Evidence Act which is that this is another progressive piece of legislation which creates more space for justice for the citizens of Guyana and I hope that this would be conveyed in a very forceful and aggressive way to Guyanese people that this Government is committed to constantly recreating and creating space so that Guyanese, high or low, can have justice within this system that we have operating in Guyana and that the pieces of legislation that we bring to this House would be progressive and democratic in nature and this Bill that we have before us is in keeping with that policy of the Government.
Both sides of the House have adopted positions. The Opposition has adopted a position not to support any Bill brought by this Minister in this House and the Government side has adopted a position that the Minister will proceed with Bills passed by the Cabinet and brought before this House.
Those are to be taken by both sides. We take our blows. The Opposition will take their blows as well as is want for politicians to do. I have not information, intelligence or otherwise that the Opposition will vote in favour of this Bill. My deep throat sources have not provided me with that information. Whatever the situation might be this is not a question of casting one’s fortunes to determine whatever will may be but to vote against this Bill, I can only say, is to side with persons who are bent on criminal enterprise. A strong signal must be sent from this House, a unanimous united signal. Forget ‘Rohee’. What is of important is the signal that we are sending from the House to persons who are intent on criminal enterprise; that a Bill of this type will throw another spanner in the works of those who are determined to continue not only engaging in criminal activities but using vehicles AT 192, AT 162, the preferred vehicles of the criminals to commit crimes.
Crime has a very interesting way of making circles. Maybe one day when one of us in this very House having had a duty free vehicle given to us by virtue of being a Member of Parliament (MP) stolen one day from us by a criminal or a gang and found that that vehicle was used in the commission of a crime and in the absence of this legislation even the brightest minds would not be able to find justice in the system.
I wish to commend this Bill to the House. I wish to appeal to the Opposition, notwithstanding the position that they have taken with respect to Clement Rohee, the Minister of Home Affairs... I am not begging for anything. I do not need to beg. I stand here as a representative of the people. I wish to commend this Bill to the House and the least that I can do on behalf of my constituency is to appeal to the good sense of the Opposition to support this Bill in order to ensure that the criminal enterprises in this country are prevented from using other, and including this measure to commit further crimes in Guyana. I thank you.