• Fashion designer Jodhi Meares, along with her lawyer Chris Murphy, leaves Waverley Local court, in Sydney. (AAP)
High-profile Australians convicted of drink-driving in Sydney’s Northern suburbs are escaping jail, while those from rural areas are being imprisoned at much higher rates, new figures show.
By
Tara Callinan

Source:
NITV News
28 Aug 2014 - 5:14 PM  UPDATED 29 Aug 2014 - 10:56 AM

High-profile Australians convicted of drink-driving in Sydney’s Northern suburbs are escaping jail, while those from rural areas are being imprisoned.

New figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research have revealed a drink-driving divide across the state.

Of the 14 people convicted of drink-driving in Moree - half were put behind bars - while all 124 people convicted of the same offence in Northern Sydney escaped jail time.

The firgures are part of a wider disparity in penalties recorded against wea;thier inner city drivers compared to remote and regional drivers says the Principal Solicitor for Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, Jane Sanders

“Either because they’re not able to get the id or the money together to apply for their L's, often it’s because they don’t have a licensed driver to teach them or they can’t afford professional driving lessons. Also they’re not able to get a licence because they have unpaid fine and those fines are usually totally unrelated to driving so things like travelling on the train without a ticket," Ms Sanders said.

On June 23rd, Jodhi Meares a one time model and singer in nineties pop group Euphoria and former wife of billionaire James Packer - had her license suspended after she flipped her Range Rover while more than three times over the legal blood alcohol limit.

Despite the offence carrying a maximum penalty of 18 months jail time and a fine of 3300 dollars, Meares was fined only 1100 dollars and banned from driving for 12 months.

But unlike Meares, who was driving on her sixth driving suspension the night she rolled her car in Bellevue Hill, many offenders from disadvantaged areas face far worse penalties.

"For example we were in court the other day with a  young man who was second offence of driving while unlicensed and was disqualified automatically – just because of the law -  for three years,” said Ms Sanders.

Ms Sanders says remote access to legal aid services and alternative programs needs to be improved.

"Things like community service work, home detention, and intensive correction orders. All of those sorts of alternatives to imprisonment,” said Ms Sanders.