Thu | Jun 8, 2023

Golding says approach to ticket amnesty ‘unfair and illogical’

Opposition leader calls for more time with late passing of legislation

Published:Friday | January 27, 2023 | 1:22 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Parliamentary Reporter
Opposition Leader Mark Golding.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding.

With a window of opportunity for delinquent motorists to settle unpaid traffic tickets with the courts set to close next Tuesday, the parliamentary Opposition is suggesting that the period of amnesty be extended to April 30.

Legislation to allow motorists a period of reprieve to pay outstanding tickets by January 31 and for the nullification of demerit points was passed by members of the House of Representatives with three amendments on Thursday

Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw, who piloted the bill, appealed to motorists to settle their outstanding obligations with the courts by the stipulated time given by the Government.

He said that in cases where motorists have a large number of tickets, they can ask the judge for a payment plan to clear the amounts owed.

But Opposition Leader Mark Golding said that the approach being taken by the Government was “unfair and illogical”.

“They can’t get the benefit of the nullification of their demerit points if they don’t pay prior to the end of January because the court can’t accommodate them,” he said.

Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said that persons with tickets should “put themselves at the mercy of the court and the court can make a decision when it adjudicates”.

He said that many persons did not pay their tickets within the 21-day stipulated timeline.

According to Chuck, long periods have passed for many, and they are now asking to be given a convenient way to pay.

“The position of the Government is that no convenient way is going to be provided. You go to court and the court can make a decision,” Chuck insisted.

Golding said that the date of commencement of the act is likely to be Monday or Tuesday if the legislation is passed by the Upper House on Friday and clears some other administrative hurdles before it receives the governor general’s assent and is then gazetted.

He contended that the window of opportunity was too narrow for persons to benefit from the reprieve, noting that the traffic courts have been overwhelmed with persons seeking to pay outstanding traffic tickets.

The opposition leader said some persons have been given dates as far as April to appear before the courts to deal with their tickets.

Golding proposed an amendment to the term ‘reprieve period’ in the bill to make it a timeline from January 1, 2023, to April 30, 2023. He said this would allow people to appear before the courts and make their payments so that come February 1, the chaos can be avoided.

He also wanted an amendment to the bill to allow qualifying persons to pay outstanding traffic penalties either in the traffic courts or at any tax collectorate.

This would further alleviate the congestion and inconvenience being faced by the traffic courts and allow motorists to settle their obligations in an easier manner, Golding added.

However, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang said there was nothing unfair about the Government’s arrangement. He argued that some people had up to four years to pay their tickets.

“They breached the law and disrespected the law. They had time to go to court. The Government has given them a fixed time, and if they fail to get in it, that’s just how it is,” Chang argued.

He said that the few who are complaining are not deserving of any further consideration.

Floyd Green, the minister with oversight responsibility for the National Road Safety Council, said that the Government was aware of some of the challenges motorists are having at the courts but argued that an extension would not fix the problem.

“It is a difficult scenario, but there is no fix in law that is before us for it,” Green said, adding that persons who have tickets going back before 2018 will have their demerit points expunged.