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by Tim Beissmann

Drunk and dangerous drivers in New South Wales will be subject to harsher penalties if they commit crimes with children in their cars.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell confirmed the introduction of tougher penalties yesterday.

Mr O’Farrell said the Crimes Act will be amended to classify the presence of children as an ‘aggravating’ factor during the sentencing of serious traffic offenders.

“This could result in higher fines, it could result in longer sentences or it could mean the difference between receiving a fine or a jail term,” he told Fairfax.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay explained the harsher penalties would apply to drivers caught under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drivers involved in police chases and drivers who refused a breath test.

“It is just not fair and not acceptable to defenceless people that are in your vehicle to behave in this manner,” Mr Gay told ABC News.

The Opposition supports the changes, however NSW legal experts say the changes to the Crimes Act will make little difference.

Judges already have the power to take factors like underage passengers into account when deciding on a punishment for serious traffic offenders.

What do you think of the changes? A logical step forward or unnecessary legislation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.