Jalal Yassine-Naja lost his life on 14 March 2017, at the age of 13, after being hit by a vehicle driven by an unlicensed driver as he was walking across the road.
His mother, Olivia Yassine, was left with no justice, no sense of peace, and no real answers after the driver was merely sentenced to a few hours community service after the incident which lead to Jalal’s death was treated as an accident.
This driver simply should not have been behind the wheel and on the road.
After meeting with Olivia, I determined to use my privileged position as a member of the Victorian Parliament to try to achieve a change in Victorian law to ensure that no other mother had to suffer a similar injustice due to the recklessness of an unlicensed driver.
In the last sitting week of the Parliament I moved an amendment to the Justice Legislation Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2018 to amend section 319 of the Crimes Act 1958 which deals with dangerous driving causing death or serious injury.
The amendment sought to remedy the defect in the current law which had allowed the driver who killed Jalal to avoid responsibility for her actions. This brought the legislation into line with community expectations.
It added to the offence of dangerous driving causing death or serious injury a provision that if the prosecution proves that at the time of driving the accused was knowingly or recklessly driving while unlicensed or while disqualified, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is to be presumed that the accused drove the motor vehicle in a manner that was dangerous to the public.
This approach intentionally does not capture the circumstance of someone who is driving while a licence is suspended for non-payment of fines, as this bears no relation to poor driving history.
In moving the amendment I said:
“Standing in solidarity with Olivia Yassine and the Justice for Jalal crusade and with those many members of the Victorian public who believe that the penalty for taking a life should acknowledge a death, I urge members to support this amendment in memory of Jalal.”
Despite some aggressive questioning from the Greens about the amendment, it was passed without dissent and the Bill passed later that evening. The Legislative Assembly agreed to the amendment the next day, Wednesday 19 September 2018. So that just over 18 months after Jalal’s tragic death, Jalal’s Law was finally passed.
I am very proud of what I was able to achieve in Jalal’s memory for his mother Olivia and to forward the cause of justice in our community.
Independent members of Parliament, not bound by party priorities, can, with determination, energy and canniness make a real difference.