Magistrate hits out at penalties for repeat drug drivers

Repeat drug-driver Saegchai Phaha walks into court after being caught three times in six months driving under the influence of ice. Source: News Limited.

A GEELONG Magistrate has hit out at penalties for repeat drug-drivers that don’t include jail.

Magistrate Ian Von Einem said those who repeatedly drove while affected by drugs faced only fines, while those caught drink driving faced a possible jail sentence.

“It surprises me that a person can drive with drugs in their system time after time and not be eligible for a jail sentence,” he said.

Mr Von Einem said drink and drug drivers could both be charged with culpable driving if they killed someone on the roads and suggested legislators should take a look into the penalties relating to drug-driving.

Mr Von Einem made the comments while handing down sentence on repeat drug-driver, Saegchai Phaha, who was caught three times in six months driving under the influence of ice.

Phaha, 35, of Sunset Drive in Ocean Grove, who also has a prior for drug-driving, pleaded guilty in Geelong Magistrates’ Court to three counts of drug-driving.

He also pleaded guilty to driving while suspended and driving an unregistered car. Police Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Siobhan Daly told the court Phaha was driving south in Shannon Avenue on January 4 when he was stopped and given a preliminary breath test.

She said the test produced a negative alcohol reading but an oral fluid test was positive and found to contain methamphetamine.

“On January 21, 2014, Phaha was driving in Richmond Street, East Geelong, when he was stopped by police,” she said.

“Inquiries showed he was a suspended driver and an oral fluid test again tested positive for methamphetamine.”

“On July 27, he was driving an unregistered car along Bacchus Marsh Road, Corio, when stopped by police.”

“An oral fluid test showed he was again affected by methamphetamine.”

Paul Houston, for Phaha, said the offending occurred during a period when his client was mixing with the wrong people.

“He says he does not use ice on a regular basis but we all know there’s only one way with ice and that’s down,” Mr Houston said.

Phaha was convicted, placed on a 12 month Community Corrections Order with 150 hours unpaid work and ordered to undergo assessment and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

His driver’s licence was also suspended for 12 months, six months longer than the minimum for repeat drug-driving.

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