LAWS TOO COMPLEX: A Gympie magistrate says even he has trouble understanding some of the rules he has to enforce.
LAWS TOO COMPLEX: A Gympie magistrate says even he has trouble understanding some of the rules he has to enforce. John Weekes

Mission incomprehensible - laws that even confuse lawyers

"OH DEAR me,” Gympie magistrate Chris Callaghan said when told of the innocent error that cost a young Cooloola Cove woman her licence.

Mishieka Pixie McKnight, 20, pleaded guilty to disqualified driving at Tin Can Bay on February 14.

The court was told McKnight had been given a good behaviour licence after losing all her demerit points.

What she did not know was the licence was invalid because the good behaviour option did not cover the suspension imposed for one of her breeches, high-level speeding.

"Isn't it just too complex for ordinary citizens?” Mr Callaghan asked.

"It's complicated enough for lawyers and public officials.

"Don't you think someone at Queensland Transport should have told her?”

"I was unaware I was suspended,” McKnight told the court.

"I can understand that,” MrCallaghan said, and the police prosecutor agreed.

"Sadly, a mistake of law is not a defence, but it is a really substantial factor in mitigation of penalty,” Mr Callaghan told McKnight.

"I convict you and discharge you absolutely,” he said.

"However, as I must, I disqualify you for (the mandatory) six months.”

Less innocent, but still subject to a sentencing problem, was Aaron James Fletcher, 37, owner of a car seen driving off from police in Mellor St on May 20, 2016.

Fletcher claimed he lent the car to a person he did not know, but Mr Callaghan said he had to nominate the driver if it was not him.

Defending that aspect of the law, Mr Callaghan said it was necessary "because so many people were losing their lives in police chases, a coroner suggested police not do pursuits as often”.

He said the government responded by increasing the penalty to a minimum of 50 days or 50-penalty units ($5850).

But the law did not allow the court to discount the fine to allow for time already served.

Fletcher chose to serve the remainder of the 50-day mandatory jail penalty rather than pay the full fine and effectively waste the 26 days he had served so far.

"I don't make $6000 in 25days,” he said.

"This is an anomaly and I'll take it up with our courts to raise it with the Minister for Justice and Attorney General,” the magistrate said.