No breath testing for WA skippers in upcoming Australia Day celebrations

Drink Driving, Traffic Law

A legal loophole means drunk skippers cannot be breath tested by WA Police in the upcoming Australia Day celebrations taking place in the Perth river banks. 12,000 boats are expected to be on the water for the Australia Day fireworks.


The regulations do not permit breath testing of skippers, so those who are operating vessels drunk can only be prosecuted and fined $1000 under the Marine Act if they are incapable of operating their vessels because of drugs or alcohol. The police, therefore, face the difficult task of alleging intoxication without evidence from a breath test. In effect, they need to prove you were under the influence, which is much more difficult than proving an offence of prescribed concentration of alcohol with the use of authorised detection equipment.

The situation is different in NSW. Breath testing of skippers is permitted under the regulations, and there are offences under Part 3 Div 2 of the Marine Safety Act 1998 for navigating with prescribed concentrations of alcohol, mirroring the PCA provisions in road transport legislation. Mandatory marine safety licence disqualification periods also apply for drunk navigating offences.

Discussion of this issue in WA has referred to a notable case in the state’s recent past, that being the case involving an MP’s son in which a young woman was left with serious injuries. In NSW, a drunken joyride turned deadly when a boat collided with a fishing boat, killing six. The two men operating the boat were convicted of manslaughter and dangerous navigation causing death and were sentenced to seven and a half years jail. They will be eligible for parole in April.

While much rarer than drink driving offences, drunk navigating is taken just as seriously in NSW. Breath testing does occur. If you have been charged with drinking on the water, give Sydney Criminal Defence Lawyers a call.

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