Queensland Law Society

Truckie law implication driving the wrong way

Date 16 May 2012
Contact Natalie Graeff, Manager Corporate Communication
Phone (07) 3842 5868
Mobile 0488 433 884
Fax 07 3221 9329
Email n.graeff@qls.com.au

Queensland Law Society is urging Transport Ministers around Australia to consider the knock-on effects of aspects of the Heavy Vehicle National Law at their meeting on Friday 18 May.

The Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Transport (SCOTI) will discuss the Heavy Vehicle National Law which includes provisions which reverse the onus of proof for company directors and officers when their company commits an offence.

Queensland Law Society president Dr John de Groot said governments had responsibility for protecting company directors and officers who are innocent of wrongdoing – not just within the trucking industry but in industries throughout Australia.

“Once this step of directors having to prove their innocence in circumstances of corporate fault is taken in one law, it can too easily create a domino effect in other pieces of legislation where it’s mentioned, affecting many industries,” Dr de Groot said.

“What happens if a driver forgets to fill in a log book and has an accident – should the company directors be held automatically liable?

“It runs completely counter to the well-established principle of criminal law that a person remains innocent until they are proven guilty, without any proof of personal complicity or wrong-doing.

“Reversal of the onus of the proof is inappropriate, contrary to fundamental tenets of our legal system and unfairly discriminates against corporate officers.

“What kind of a society will we become once we start on this slippery slope?

“Not only that, companies may find it more difficult to source directors prepared to take on the risk of criminal liability and the associated costs.

“Automatically assuming directors bear a reverse onus of proof will make this problem worse.

“Queensland Law Society supports the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee’s proposed model to keep directors and managers fairly accountable, leaving the door open for investigating potential liability.

“This is the model that should be adopted in the Heavy Vehicles National Law.”