Michelle Bridges leaves Waverley Court in Sydney.
Michelle Bridges leaves Waverley Court in Sydney.

Why isn’t Michelle Bridges in prison?

Three months and $750? For driving drunk with a small child in the car?

You can get more than for doing a burnout ($1100). For racking up too many demerit points (often six months). For using a fake ID to enter a pub while underage (that's six months added to your provisional licence and a $2200 fine).

Michelle Bridges, fitness trainer and community-minded one-woman weight-reduction saint, who her lawyer told the local court this week has helped rid the nation of two million kilograms of blubber, confessed to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.089 per cent.

She has to install an interlock device to ensure she can't drive drunk - but the $750 fine and the licence suspension period are relatively light.

Magistrate Allison Hawkins applied the minimum licence suspension period, which can be up to six months, and had a potential maximum fine of $2200.

 

Michelle Bridges leaves Waverley Court in Sydney. Picture: AAP
Michelle Bridges leaves Waverley Court in Sydney. Picture: AAP

 

The magistrate also had the option to put Bridges in jail for up to nine months.

Would that have been too harsh? I don't think so. Most of the focus after Bridges' appearance at Waverley Local Court was her barrister, Tony Bellanto QC, telling the magistrate Bridges was, in effect, a special person who deserved leniency because she had helped so many Australians lose weight.

"Now that's powerful," Bellanto said. "She's also written 16 books on the topic. What is the court to do in regard to that? She's entitled to have that taken on board."

 

Michelle Bridges’ book cover. Picture: Supplied
Michelle Bridges’ book cover. Picture: Supplied

 

Ms Hawkins, new to the bench, said: "So logically a person who has achieved less in life is not as entitled to court leniency?"

"I'm saying justice is individual," Mr Bellanto replied.

This all comes under the Berejiklian government's new laws against drink-driving, which for the first time have made it compulsory for all mid-range drink drivers, like Bridges, to have an interlock device fitted.

 

Michelle Bridges pictured fronting Waverley Local Court. Picture: Matrix
Michelle Bridges pictured fronting Waverley Local Court. Picture: Matrix

 

I'm glad the penalties are harsher than they used to be. I'm glad to hear Bridges say she's ashamed and will never do it again.

But if we really want to change people's behaviour in NSW, we have to do more than - as the grieving families who lost four children in the Oatlands crash want - reduce the blood alcohol limit to 0.0.

We have to make it completely insane to drink and drive once, let alone twice.

Mid-range DUI - particularly in aggravating circumstances where, say, there's a child in the car - should mean a licence suspension so significant you will never risk it again.

Would five years and $10,000 and, say, occasionally using the option of nine months' imprisonment be a good start?

I'd say it's a minimum.



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