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Tony Beach on Searches of Vehicles and Changes to the Land Transport Act 1998 Coming into Force in 2018

Wednesday January 31, 2018

Auckland barrister Tony Beach represents both legally aided clients as well as private clients. He is also a duty lawyer at North Shore District Court. His criminal cases have included: Property offences: These include, for example, burglary, theft, receiving or obtaining by deception charges. Violence offences: For example, male assaults female or common assault, possession of offensive weapons. Drugs charges: Possession of drugs or utensils, such as a pipe, under the Misuse of Drugs ActTony Beach

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Tony recently to discuss key challenges and opportunities facing the industry today.

You can find the full Q&A below.

Tony, what made you want to become a criminal lawyer?

I have always enjoyed the environment of the courtroom so I gravitated to litigation after being admitted. I have conducted civil litigation in the past but I also took on traffic and criminal matters at the same time - since I went out on my own account as a barrister sole I have focussed on traffic and crime. I have been in Durham Street Chambers for quite a few years now and the other lawyers here, Adam Couchman and Peter Tomlinson, are senior criminal lawyers.

Please tell us a bit about what your practice looks like, including the types of matters you are currently working on and the most interesting case of the last 12 months?

I am a legal aid provider so there is that side of the practice; I get a lot of referrals from other lawyers as well. A wide range of criminal and traffic charges, largely in the District Court but occasionally High Court matters.

There are always interesting cases in criminal law, even minor charges can raise interesting legal questions. A charge of wilfully attempting to pervert the course of justice raised interesting questions about intent; a charge of breach of a zero alcohol licence which raised questions of certainty of the law when the law changed between the time a defendant was sentenced to the zero alcohol licence and when he was allegedly in breach of the licence; an assault with intent to injure charge which gave rise to a parental control defence raised interesting questions around that defence; pre-trial applications around search and seizure and whether evidence can be ruled inadmissible are interesting; the list goes on.

You will be presenting the topic “Searches of Vehicles and Changes to the Land Transport Act 1998 Coming into Force in 2018” at the Traffic and Driving Offences seminar in March. Could you please identify some of the typical issues regarding police searches as well as what is changing and why the changes are significant?

The basis for police searches - in particular, warrentless searches - can often be vague, unspecified, contradictory. One issue is determining which provision of what legislation the investigatory agency is purporting to act under. Another main issue is assessing the balancing test - whether the evidence is admissible under s30 of the Evidence Act even if the search is ruled illegal. 

There are some changes to the Land Transport Act 1998 coming into force on 1 July 2018.  One change relates to how the courts deal with drink drivers. Currently, there is a provision which allows the court to order a defendant to apply for an alchol interlock licence rather face a lengthy disqualification. An alcohol interlock licence is where a driver can only drive legally in a motor vehicle with an alcohol interlock device fitted to it, which tests whether the driver has consumed alcohol before driving. On 1 July 2018 the courts will be required to hand down such an order on conviction, in certain circumstances - it will become mandatory rather than simply something that a defendant can choose to apply for. When the law comes into effect the number of drivers with alcohol interlock devices will most likely ramp up considerably.

Once the new legislation comes into force is there anything that you think practitioners should note as a possible grey area/red flag?

Like night follows day, with more alcohol interlock licences there will be more prosecutions for failing to comply with the licence so we will see a great variety of different fact scenarios - and defences.

You can hear more from Tony at the Traffic and Driving Offences seminar, being held on Friday 16 March at the Stamford Plaza Auckland.

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