Committee gives with one hand, takes with the other

Green MP Keith Locke is pleased people with minor sex offences won’t be totally excluded from driving buses and taxis, but is disappointed the transport and industrial relations select committee had made it more difficult for some other former offenders.

“The committee has given leeway to former sex offenders, but taken away the right of former violent offenders to ever get passenger licences,” said Mr Locke, the party’s associate transport spokesperson.

“Labour talks about the need to rehabilitate violent criminals, yet its MPs on the select committee want to stop them ever driving a bus or taxi, even twenty or thirty years after their conviction, and even if they weren’t sentenced to jail.

“This is an unexpected turnaround from the bill passed last year, which allowed the Director of Transport discretion to issue licences to violent criminals who hadn’t offended for 10 years, but eliminated any such discretion for sex offenders. Now the committee wants the reverse to apply, for no good reason.

“They should have trusted the Director of Transport not to give passenger licences to those who still pose a threat to public safety, whatever the offence they had committed, or sentence they had received.

“Last year the Green Party warned that in their fear of being seen as ‘soft on crime’ MPs were producing an unworkable bill that perpetrated an injustice to some former offenders. The outcry from bus and taxi drivers when the bill came into effect proved us right.

“The Select Committee has again caved into the ‘get tough on criminals’ lobby and produced another bill that will unnecessarily penalise those former criminals who have been fully rehabilitated,” said Mr Locke.