6 July 2022

'Whole system is broken': Tom McLuckie's campaign for harsher road penalties following son's death

| Claire Fenwicke
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Father and son

Matthew McLuckie with his father, Tom. Photo: ACT Policing.

In the past six weeks, Tom McLuckie has become more familiar with charges and penalties for serious driving offences on Canberra’s roads than he ever thought he would.

“I’d rather be doing this than doing nothing,” he said.

On 19 May, his son Matt was killed by a speeding car travelling on the wrong side of the road.

Police at the time described the 20-year-old as an innocent victim who “was not driving in any dangerous manner”. The alleged female driver of the other vehicle was still in hospital receiving critical treatment and no charges in relation to the crash have yet been laid.

In the wake of his son’s death, Tom has launched ACT now for safer roads to bring about harsher laws when it comes to serious motor vehicle offences in the Territory.

“If something like this happened five kilometres outside of the ACT in NSW, you would see very different charges and sentences,” he said.

“Police at the time told me this was an accident waiting to happen.”

Tom spent the last month researching convictions, court processes and motor vehicle crime in the community.

He said what he has come across was “very alarming”.

“There are black zones in Canberra where policing is basically non-existent,” Tom said.

“There’s a frustration around resourcing, funding and the powers police have to combat these crimes.”

READ ALSO ‘Give us some justice, give us some peace’: Tom McLuckie’s plea over the senseless death of his son

Tom said he had the legal processes and charging decisions explained to him, and he knew alleged offenders could plead down to lesser charges.

“I was told it was all to do with lessening the impact on the [victim’s] family and not putting them through court or a trial,” he said.

“I’m not prepared to sit back and take whatever charges and sentences are given out.

“I’ve said, do me a favour, if the girl is ever charged, I want a murder charge.”

Tom said he felt the legal system in the ACT was geared towards the human rights of the offenders rather than finding justice for victims and their families.

“Some of these [offenders] are known to police in many cases, linked to organised crime and drugs, but nothing’s being done,” he said.

“Why are repeat offenders getting good behaviour bonds? Why are people on bail or parole getting good behaviour bonds?

“The whole system is broken.”

The campaign has called for mandatory minimum sentencing with no parole for serious motor vehicle crime, and loss of license and impounding of motor vehicles for excessive speeding and other reckless driving. It said these would fulfil recommendations from the National Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030.

“If you’re caught excessively speeding in NSW, you have your car impounded, a loss of license and criminal charges laid,” Tom said.

“But in the ACT you can go 170 km/h in a 100 zone and lose some points and get a fine. It’s incredible.”

Tom said he wanted reckless drivers in the ACT to be afraid of the consequences.

“I am not against motor vehicle enthusiasts. When I was teaching Matt to drive, I took him to Bathurst. I have no problem with people having modified cars that they drive sensibly,” he said.

“But I’ve heard stories of these people who steal cars and purposefully bait the police into chasing them. If [the pursuit] is called off, these people then loop back around and look for the same officers to engage them again.

“Matt’s accident was waiting to happen, and it frustrates me that this won’t be the last time it happens.”

READ ALSO ‘We’re all people’: help available for witnesses of traumatic car crashes

A spokesperson for ACT Policing said they were aware the McLuckie family was seeking more substantial penalties for serious driving offences.

“ACT Policing regularly engages with the ACT Government on legislative changes and we support any Canberran engaging with the community and government if they believe current legislation should be changed,” they said.

“Street racing and other dangerous driving behaviours are regularly targeted by ACT Policing, with more than 1100 criminal charges laid in the past two and a half years for serious driving offences.”

The spokesperson said while the vast majority of motorists did the right thing, a “small percentage” of the community used Canberra’s roads as a “racetrack”.

“When these people are identified by police and appropriate evidence is available, they are charged before a court, and in some circumstances, their vehicles will be seized for short periods of time,” the spokesperson said.

“We are concerned that those people who participate in this type of criminal driving behaviour do not consider the very serious risk it poses.

“Travelling at high speeds on our roads results in an immediate risk to the driver, their passengers and other road users – and those risks can turn into tragic situations in just a few seconds.”

The investigation into Matt McLuckie’s death is ongoing, with police still searching for the driver of a third vehicle that allegedly fled the scene.

“While that person has not yet come forward, we urge this person to consider their actions and make contact with police as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

Anyone who has dash-cam footage of the crash, captured any vehicle driving in an unusual manner in the area around the time of the collision or with any information about the incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Quote reference number P2075137.

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Finagen_Freeman3:15 pm 25 Aug 22

We can still affect change and make our magistrates accountable to people and not politicians https://epetitions.parliament.act.gov.au/details/epet-22-023

Good luck. The ACT Government seems to be focusing their “road safety” attention to pet projects that have little or no correlation to where or why road trauma is actually occurring. eg. how many cyclist-deaths are going to be prevented by the massive spends on Corinna St, Phillip, and Reed St, Greenway? How many pedestrian deaths have been prevented by reducing Northbourne Ave a 40km/h zone? (how many occurred prior to the speed limit reduction?) What reduction in road trauma has been achieved by riddling major secondary roads (eg. Namadtjira Drive) with a third-world “solution”, required where there is no effective enforcement: ie. speed bumps?

Where is road trauma actually occurring, and where is the ACT Government focusing its attention?

The ACT Police keep telling us that speeding is a major contributing factor in road trauma, but reducing speed limits will not reduce road trauma caused by people who are not obeying the speed limit in the first place.

I agree the system doesn’t give two hoots about the human rights of the victims. The whole point of prison is to protect society from people who are enemies of society.

As well as car thieves and drug drivers hurting or killing innocent victims there would be the less severe side of it. How many people have lost their income or job because they found it hard or impossible to get to work after some lowlife has stolen or damaged their car?

Matt’s killer should be charged with murder and the other driver should face very severe charges if they don’t come forward soon. There will be a breakthrough and the police will eventually find them.

5 years in jail for the first car theft offence and 10 for tne next ones would make our roads so much safer. Bail and good behaviour bonds should have significant monetary security attached to them. Give the perpetrator something to lose if they don’t pull their heads in.

The police in the US will “pit manoeuvre” a dangerous driver off the road if it’s safe for everyone (except maybe the dangerous driver) to do so. Do we need to resort to that practice to make our roads safer?

ChrisinTurner1:52 pm 07 Jul 22

The ACT has the lowest per-capita number of police of all states and territories. Diverting $billions to provide much slower public transport to Woden is not the answer.

One of the significant flaws in the justice system is too many people get the benefit of the doubt when they don’t deserve it. They get chances in the hope they will improve and stop doing bad things, and keep abusing their chances. The courts don’t seem to get that if your first impression is that a person is a d*******, they almost certainly are.

I feel so sorry for Matt’s family to lose a beautiful son in this way, would be heart breaking,

I drive past this spot every day on my way to work and I think of Matthew and his family every day. To bury your own son is something that I can’t even begin to imagine.
Ask yourself though when was the last time you saw a police car in the ACT, the thin blue line is now invisible!

If sentenced the judges in this town will inevitably offer up a sentence that shocks and disappoints us all, and then some road safety expert will probably suggest they make the hill a 40km zone with speed cameras to tax anyone “speeding” to prevent a recurrence.

How many high speed, drug induced murders by motor vehicle need to take place in this town before our highly paid experts will take action?

Yet instead of shock, and action, they legalise all drugs and appoint judges that will go easy on the few that threaten us all.

Tom has a real fight on his hands here, we all do!

I agree with this comment

You can have all the laws you want but when there is not enough resources to enforce them and judges not sentencing them to the full extent valuable l can’t see any change under this Greens/Labor government.

Steal a car and be out to do it again within a week if you get caught.

On the other hand get done by a speed camera or a parking inspector and fail to pay the fine you will have your licence and your rego suspended and they will chase you to the ends of the earth for a few lousy dollars.

The justice system is well and truly broken

“Tom said he felt the legal system in the ACT was geared towards the human rights of the offenders rather than finding justice for victims and their families.“
Many many people will agree with you Tom..
Another contributing reason is the Jailhouse has the No Vacancy sign up.

Barbara Wright4:21 pm 07 Jul 22

Too true…it’s easy to feel that the law exists to protect offenders and victims are forgotten.

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