Victoria’s Upper House passed through new laws on Tuesday evening which will see unlicensed drivers involved in a crash where someone is killed or injured to be presumed to have been driving dangerously and charged. The law change has dubbed Jalal’s Law the goal of the Justice for Jalal campaign.
In March 2017 13 year old Jalal Yassine-Naja was hit and killed while he skateboarded to school in the suburb of Brookfield in Melbourne’s West. The unlicensed driver of the car Ayou Deng a Sudanese mother of seven was only charged with unlicensed driving and sentenced to 80 hours community service for this offence and an unrelated assault in March this year.
Since then Jalal’s mother Olivia Yassine launched the Justice for Jalal campaign to lobby for the police investigation into her son’s death to be reopened and for Victoria’s Parliament to pass Jalal’s law to see that unlicened drivers can be charged for driving causing injury or death as is the case with culpable driving. The campaign began with a Facebook page, a parliamentary petition and a legal GoFundMe.
At first gaining attention from lawmakers was slow but a breakthrough was achieved with the Walk with Jalal which took place on Sunday 15th April. The walk from Victoria’s Treasury Garden’s to the steps of Parliament House where Shadow Minister for Police and Corrections Liberal MLC Edward O’Donohue committed to implementing Jalal’s Law.
Jalal’s Law passed the Upper House after the Andrews’ Labor Government committed to it with Attorney-General Martin Pakula stating the change in law “will make it harder for an unlicensed driver to demonstrate that that’s not a dangerous act in the event that someone is seriously injured or killed”.
The law had been championed by Independent MLC Dr Rachel Carling Jenkins who wrote on Facebook Tuesday evening “After a long and drawn out fight, Jalal’s Law has successfully passed! Very happy for Jalal’s family, especially his mother Olivia who has been courageously battling for this Law”.
Politicians came together to vote for the law change despite a report by the parliamentary Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee finding it “would likely result in unjust outcomes or be unworkable in practice” alleging it would reverse the legal onus of proof and conflict with a defendant’s right to the presumption of innocence”.
Jalal’s mother Oliva spoke with Neil Mitchell on 3AW yesterday where she described her emotions “There’s a lot of adrenaline and numbness going through me at the moment” but that “We did it, it’s done. It’s something that lets his memory live on”. You can see our interview with Olivia Yassine about her journey from the Walk with Jalal below.
The law still needs to pass the lower house but with the Government’s support it is certain to pass. The law however will not be retrospective so Ayou Deng cannot be charged for Jalal’s death. But Jalal’s Law is a significant victory for people power and for Olivia Yassine’s determination to see that no other parent or loved one will have to go through what she did.