Traffic tickets and a can of worms!

Published: Sunday | January 6, 2013 Comments 0
Tax offices across the island were packed with persons trying to beat last Monday's deadline for the traffic-ticket amnesty. This, coupled with the usual month-end rush, made for some long lines. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer
Tax offices across the island were packed with persons trying to beat last Monday's deadline for the traffic-ticket amnesty. This, coupled with the usual month-end rush, made for some long lines. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

... Government could be in trouble for arresting any motorist who failed to meet the amnesty deadline or anyone whose name appears on the list in error

Barbara Gayle, Justice Coordinator

Some motorists who rushed to pay the State thousands of dollars during the recent traffic amnesty might have spent money they did not need to.

A retired judge has told The Sunday Gleaner that some of the traffic tickets could be statute-barred.

According to the retired judge, who asked not to be named, persons ticketed outside of Kingston and St Andrew may have wasted their money.

He explained that traffic offences heard in other parishes are done under the Justice of the Peace Jurisdiction Act and must be disposed of within a six-month period.

The retired judge argued that some of those traffic tickets could be statute-barred if they were not disposed of within a certain time.

He also objected to the police demanding that fines should be paid even when the motorists were adamant that they were already paid.

"The onus must not be on the motorists to prove that they have already paid the fines," argued the retired judge.

He received support from noted Attorney-at-law Hugh Wildman who described the amnesty as "highly flawed and compromised".

According to Wildman, the police cannot arrest someone on the basis that the traffic tickets are outstanding.

Flaws in the amnesty

Wildman said the flaws in the amnesty were evident from the number of motorists who said their names were on the list when they were not issued with traffic tickets, had already paid the fine or had the matter disposed of by the court.

"The onus is on the Government to ensure the integrity of the list of persons it is claiming have not paid the traffic fines and in that regard, they have a duty not to put people's names on it who have already paid.

"It is also libellous for them to say a person owes when he does not owe," declared Wildman.

He argued that one of the fundamentals governing the operation of an amnesty is that the authorities must be in a position to say who have not paid.

Wildman said comments about locking up people who have not met the deadline was "dangerous".

He pointed out that the issuing of a warrant for someone who had paid the fine but is on the list would render that warrant void and the magistrate who issued it could be liable in a civil suit for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, once the person is arrested by the police.

"So they are opening up the door for agents of the State including resident magistrates, the police and the attorney general to be liable in civil suits, because once the fines were paid there would be no defence to the suit," said Wildman.

The attorney told The Sunday Gleaner that there is a process to follow if delinquent motorists are to be brought before the court.

He said the authorities would have to go through the list thoroughly, re-issue summonses, serve them on the motorists and if they fail to attend court, then the court can issue a warrant.

"They cannot pick up a person and take them before the court because they did not satisfy the amnesty deadline."

He argued that the amnesty is operated by the executive arm of the State which is the minister of national security and the police.

However, when there is non-compliance with the amnesty it has to go back to the judicial arm for summonses to be issued before a warrant can be issued for the arrest of any motorist.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com

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