The federal government plans to bring forward legislation to introduce a new driving licence system that involves penalty points for a number of motoring offences, justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) told the parliament’s justice committee.
Van Quickenborne was presenting the committee with his policy programme, one of the priorities of which, he said, was tackling offenders. The penalty points system is intended to crack down on repeat offenders.
The penalty points system, in theory, sees an offender’s driving licence receive a certain number of points when an offence is committed, as well as a fine or other penalty. If a driver accumulates points, they are likely to pay more for insurance, and in extreme cases to have the licence withdrawn.
The governing accords agreed by the seven parties of the coalition include the commitment to carry out a study into “the role of the driving licence with points in comparison with other countries and with the use of radar detectors”.
There are wide differences of opinion on the question. The principle of a licence with penalty points has been accepted in Belgian law since 1990, but has never been enacted into law, because of the consensus that the chance of repeat offenders being stopped was not sufficiently high as to justify the administration the system would require.
Speaking to the committee, Van Quickenborne made it clear the legislation would be the responsibility of mobility minister Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo).
Among the other policy priorities for the justice ministry in the coming term is the offence of online hate speech, he said. At present, under the constitution, hate speech is dealt with in the lower court when it concerns discrimination on the basis of racism, xenophobia and negationism.
Other forms of hate speech –known as press offences – have to be brought before the assizes court, a more expensive and weighty procedure with a jury. The legislator intended that requirement to be a barrier against the frivolous use of libel laws, but in practice the process is so cumbersome the charge is rarely brought, leading to a sense of impunity.
“I know that changing the constitution is not easy, and that the assizes court is an important body for many. But I still want to ask you to give some thought to press offences and work on it with me,” he told the committee.