Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Ticket farce - Thousands of motorists escape sanction

Published:Wednesday | October 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Gleaner Writer

Seeming confusion between four state entities allowed drivers to ignore close to 90 per cent of the more than 65,000 traffic tickets issued by the police in the first half of this year without any consequences.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck disclosed yesterday that 65,195 new cases were placed before the Corporate Area Traffic Court between January and June, but said 88 per cent of those cases or 57,371 "resulted in warrants".

Worse yet, Chuck said during a statement in Parliament, "Many of these warrants have not yet been issued."

The justice minister acknowledged that the breakdown of the system has fuelled a culture of impunity on the nation's roadways. "Far too many traffic violators get a ticket and throw it away because they know that at the moment warrants are not being issued," he said.

Dr Lucien Jones, vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), described the revelation as "egregious".

"The reality is that such a malfunction breeds contempt for our law and causes people to drive carelessly without any fear of a penalty," said Jones.

He said the breakdown of the traffic ticketing system would be on the agenda when the executive of the NRSC meets with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who is also chairman of the road-safety lobby.

Chuck explained that the issues surrounding the breakdown of the traffic ticket system are twofold. A significant part of the problem, he admitted, is the "gap" in the information systems between the tax office and the courts.

"The court is unable to confirm whether the traffic tickets were paid at the tax office, and so there tends to be a reluctance to proceed with the warrants," he pointed out.

Chuck noted, also, that the four state entities that play a role in the enforcement of the Road Traffic Act - the courts, the tax office, the police and the Island Traffic Authority - all fall under different ministries.

"This gap enables persons to accumulate a large number of traffic tickets without sanctions being imposed. Greater collaboration is necessary to bridge this gap and streamline the process," he reasoned.

Member of parliament for St Andrew South, Mark Golding, in responding to Chuck, raised concerns that the proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act, which have been contemplated for years, would not fix the problem.

"Hopefully the [proposed] Road Traffic Act will go some way towards addressing some of those issues, but that won't fix this problem of information being in the system and retrievable on a timely basis," Golding reasoned.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com