Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Editorial | End amnesty for lawbreakers

Published:Saturday | November 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Delinquent motorists, who failed to pay fines from as far back as 2010, got the break they were waiting for with the recent 91-day traffic-ticket amnesty.

By paying their fines, these motorists were forgiven for breaking the law and their slates were wiped clean. The Government raked in a sizeable portion of the $2.2 billion which it is owed and it seems everyone is happy. But is this a happy state of affairs? What is truly troubling about this whole affair is the complacency by all parties with an amnesty which includes totally forgiving those who break the law with impunity.

If, you are currently holding a traffic ticket, you may be tempted to keep your money in your pocket and wait for another amnesty to come around when you can pay your fine without any repercussions. Let's not forget that there was a similar traffic ticket amnesty in 2012, and persons who ignored that opportunity to come clean were given yet another chance in this latest round of forgiveness which was deemed to cover the period September 2010 to July 2017.

Minister of National Security Robert Montague has been gleefully touting the economic benefits of the amnesty. After all, the Government now has many more millions today than when the amnesty began in August.

 

COURT NIGHTMARE

 

As far as prosecution goes, it would be a nightmare to try and bring to court these hundreds of offenders to have their cases heard. It would certainly overwhelm the already overburdened court system, so in a perverse way the justice system can claim a benefit from the amnesty.

We look at this practice with a skeptical eye, for the fact that persons who have multiple unpaid fines are still able to operate a motor vehicle. We see this as a sign that the police need to get a better grip on what is happening on the nation's streets. It means more efficient data collection, better intelligence gathering, greater vigilance, and enforcement.

We trust that when the updated Road Traffic Act comes into effect, not only will fines be significantly increased but the traffic department will be placed in a better position to be effective in its job of policing the streets. We urge the minister to put more resources into the traffic department so that it can do a better job of locating and arresting delinquents.

An amnesty does not convert a person who is prone to breaking the law into a pious law-abiding citizen. Far from it. Instead, it really demonstrates the benefits to be had from breaking the law. Persons who pay their fines are likely to dutifully continue to honour their obligations and the delinquents will continue to be in a deficit position.

We fear that not only will there be an extension of the amnesty, but that there will be another blitz sometime in the future. What the minister should really be doing is to name and shame the delinquents. It is not OK to have them quietly pay the fines for that would not allow the public at large to get a sense of the scope of delinquency.

Devising incentives for lawlessness cannot be the answer to the challenges which the country faces on the roads and in communities. Enough capitulation, Minister. End the amnesty.