4/18/2019Australia: Government Report Slams Erroneous Speed Camera Punishments
Victoria, Australia ombudsman report documents 397 cases where improper handling of photo tickets cost innocent drivers their license.
At least 397 motorists in Victoria, Australia, lost their right to drive because the state government bungled the handling of speed camera fines. In a report released Wednesday, Victoria Ombudsman Deborah Glass blasted Fines Victoria, the agency responsible for overseeing the handling of citations. The report reviewed 605 complaints from members of the public about how this year-old state agency handled their situations.
"Many complaints were about delay in the processing of nominations, completing reviews and implementing payment plans," Glass said in a statement. "The impact of these issues should not be underestimated. People had their licenses wrongly suspended, or were treated as liable for substantial fines, when they had committed no offense."
The ombusdman's role is to assist individuals who feel they have been mistreated by government agencies, and the office has the power to conduct investigations when the misconduct appears to be widespread. Fines Victoria even gave the ombudsman's office the run-around when it tried to resolve what should have been a simple matter.
A grieving father, identified only as Dan, called when Fines Victoria kept trying to collect $7636 worth of unpaid tickets and late payment penalties racked up by his son, who was unable to pay them after he died. The father was particularly worried because state law allows the sheriff to "seize and sell the person's property or arrest the person" for failure to pay.
"We contacted Fines Victoria, providing a copy of the coroner's confirmation of death certificate for Dan's son," the report noted. "We followed up several times after receiving no response."
It took forty days before the agency cleared the matter, not counting the weeks Dan spent trying to resolve it on his own, only to be forwarded to voicemails and put on hold. Fines Victoria blamed software problems for causing a massive backlog.
As photo tickets in Australia carry license points, processing mistakes impose great costs in terms of increased insurance premiums and even license suspensions. Fines Victoria lacks an effective system to check for errors, instead relying on ticket recipients to recognize the error and call in -- even though the report demonstrates the difficulty of contacting the agency.
The report also described the plight of Isabella, who allowed a friend to drive her company car on August 20, 2018. That friend generated a speed camera ticket, and when the citation arrived in the mail, Isabella turned over the name of the actual driver on a nomination form. Fines Victoria refused to accept the form because she forgot to fill out the box with the date. She asked for an extension so she could resubmit the form before the deadline, but the ticket was processed against her anyway.
"They told me, 'yes, you can have the extension,'" Isabella told investigators. "The [phone] recording says they said 'yes'... they did agree that they did say that on the tape, but then it was like 'too bad.'"
Isabella was not alone, as the report shows the number of backlogged cases peaked at 190,000 last year. Fines Victoria insisted that it has fixed its technology problems, but the ombudsman remains skeptical.
"We will continue to monitor complaints received about Fines Victoria, and to liaise with the agency, to see whether the issues set out in this report are indeed being fixed, or whether an investigation by the ombudsman is warranted," the report concluded.
A copy of the report is available in a 1.5mb PDF file at the source link below.