Towie crim­i­nal checks widened

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - KELMENY FRASER

CRIM­I­NAL checks on towtruck driv­ers will be ex­panded to take in even low-level of­fences, un­der a crack­down on shady op­er­a­tors.

The Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment is poised to roll out sweep­ing re­forms by the end of the year that will ex­pose those seek­ing a tow-truck li­cence to wider back­ground checks, with au­thor­i­ties able to con­sider more mi­nor of­fences, such as pub­lic drunk­en­ness.

Only se­ri­ous weapons, drug and other crim­i­nal charges have pre­vi­ously been taken into ac­count by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials when con­sid­er­ing whether an ap­pli­cant is fit to hold a tow-truck li­cence.

But The Sun­day Mail can re­veal that vet­ting will now ex­am­ine an ap­pli­cant’s en­tire crim­i­nal his­tory, in­clud­ing tres­pass, pub­lic uri­na­tion, pos­ses­sion of stolen prop­erty, and pub­lic nui­sance of­fences.

The changes will bring wannabe tow-truck driv­ers in line with bus driv­ers, whose en­tire crim­i­nal his­tory is raked over.

The re­forms will also boost the pro­tec­tion of “in­jured and dis­tressed” mo­torists at ac­ci­dent scenes.

They fol­low an in­quiry into dodgy tow­ing prac­tices in pri­vate park­ing lots.

A Sun­day Mail in­ves­ti­ga­tion in May ex­posed an elab­o­rate racket in which cow­boy op­er­a­tors were cap­i­tal­is­ing on a leg­isla­tive black­hole to rake in thou­sands of dol­lars a night prey­ing on mo­torists who park their cars in seem­ingly unat­tended pri­vate car parks.

The sub­se­quent in­quiry ex­posed a raft of prob­lems, with “in­con­sis­ten­cies in the con­sid­er­a­tion of crim­i­nal his­to­ries” and “no reg­u­lar sched­uled mon­i­tor­ing or rou­tine au­dit­ing of tow-truck li­censees”.

Other changes would give au­thor­i­ties tough new pow­ers to raid tow-truck hold­ing yards with­out a war­rant when in­ves­ti­gat­ing an in­ci­dent.

The en­try pow­ers have been op­posed by the Queens­land Law So­ci­ety, with pres­i­dent Chris­tine Smyth writ­ing in a sub­mis­sion to Par­lia­ment: “There is the po­ten­tial for this power to be abused.”

Other changes in­clude cap­ping pri­vate park­ing tow­ing and stor­age fees, tougher penal­ties for in­tim­i­dat­ing be­hav­iour, and a tougher ap­proach to act­ing on con­sumer com­plaints.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley yes­ter­day said he was con­fi­dent the re­forms would come into ef­fect by year’s end.

“Queens­land will now be the first state in the coun­try to cap fees for tow­ing from pri­vate carparks which is a sig­nif­i­cant crack­down and a big win for mo­torists,” he said.

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