Motorists threaten legal action after vehicles seizedMonday, August 23, 2021
BY CANDICE HAUGHTON
AT least three motorists whose cars were seized by the police on suspicion of operating a private vehicle as a public passenger vehicle (PPV) without a road licence are threatening legal action.
The men, who have denied the allegations, told the Jamaica Observer that they are now fearful as they believe they are being unfairly targeted by the police and the Transport Authority. They did, however, follow the instructions of the Transport Authority to have their vehicles returned, which included applying for a road licence.
Luke Mardner, 41, said he was parked at a popular pastry shop in Kingston, where he was purchasing a snack, when he was approached by the police who said they were going to seize his vehicle as they had evidence of him operating without a road licence. He told the Observer that he did not see the evidence but was told that it was a video. He denied the allegations but complied with the police.
“I am afraid to drive the car now because I don't want them to see me again and think mi a drive taxi...That's unlawful because you need the passenger as evidence to prove that mi did a operate taxi. Even seeing me stop and picking up passenger, that doesn't tell you that I'm operating a taxi,” Mardner reasoned, claiming that he has not operated a taxi since 2012 when he lost his road licence.
His vehicle was returned to him within two weeks, but only after he followed several steps.
Mardner, who said he has been working a regular nine-to-five since losing his road licence, told the Observer that when his vehicle was seized last month he was informed by the Transport Authority that he would have to wait until September 8 to go to court.
“When I check the date at the time, it would be over 40 days,” he explained. “I couldn't afford for my car to be in the pound for that long. What they [Transport Authority] said was I have to apply for a road licence if I want back my car within the same month — they are giving you an ultimatum.”
Mardner explained that he was advised to get a letter from the taxi association, pay the fee to apply for a road licence, take the documents to the Transport Authority, and then the police would release his vehicle. He said he paid approximately $40,000 in total before his vehicle was returned.
“That is unfair. After you pay the taxi association and the wrecker fee, you have to go to transport centre — upstairs in Half-Way-Tree — for them to sign the release of your vehicle, and they do it on them own timing,” Mardner said, adding that he had to walk eight miles from his home in Smokey Vale, St Andrew, to get public transportation.
Insisting that he had no intention of applying for another road licence, the 41-year-old said he is looking to take his case to court.
“Mi need back mi money... Mi wah know where it stop. Mi cyaan drive mi vehicle in peace, but if you can tek it today, you can tek it tomorrow and tell mi the same thing… What kind a powers them have if they do this? It was not my intention to apply for no road licence, which they are forcing you [to] either apply for or you wait pon di court date,” he added.
Jerome Bowen and Sheldon Hutchinson, both 32 years old, recounted similar experiences.
Bowen, who said he is an auto technician and farmer, told the Observer that his car was parked legally when the police approached him.
“Mi feel targeted by the police. Mi car just park [at] a location, empty and lock up, and them just come and use brute force and lock up mi car… Dem nuh catch mi inna di act. Dem come to mi and seh dem have mi under surveillance an a go seize mi vehicle, [and] tek it weh last month,” he said.
He is also fearful his car will again be seized.
“Mi nuh feel safe because even now mi a drive mi car and mi nah trouble dah work deh, them can see mi car anywhere and tell mi seh dem have me pan surveillance same way. Mi feel fearful now,” he said.
Recounting a similar procedure to have his vehicle returned to him, Bowen said he, too, is looking at taking legal action against the Government.
Meanwhile, Hutchinson, whose vehicle was also seized last month, said he believed the authorities were forcing him to get a road licence, even though he doesn't want to operate a taxi.
“I said to [Transport Authority]: 'I don't want any road licence because when I buy the vehicle I came down here and I ask for the road licence and unnu said the vehicle is not ageable to get the road licence,' and I said, 'Okay'. So now dem a tell mi seh it change and I can apply for it before I can get it back,” he said, adding that he paid the fees for his car to be released, including the road licence application fee.
As with Mardner and Bowen, Hutchinson paid almost $40,000 to get his vehicle back, as he, too, was given a September 8 court date in relation to the seizure of his 1996 Toyota Corolla. Insisting that it is unfair, he is also looking to take the case to court.
Despite repeated attempts, the Observer was unable to get a comment from the Transport Authority.
Attorney-at-law Michelle Thomas told the Observer that these men might have a case if they were to take legal action against the Transport Authority. However, she advised that those looking to take legal action shouldn't do so if they know they were operating as illegal taxis.
“They have a case because if they were not running a taxi they should not be targeted. If you don't see people actually with passengers and collecting fares you can't infer that they are running taxis.
“How is it that they know that's a passenger? Suppose it's a family member? Them always a say them have surveillance, but if you are caught dropping off a family member how can you distinguish whether or not that person is a family member or indeed a passenger?” she said.
The attorney-at-law also said, “You cannot be charging people based on the fact that they're using their vehicle for public carriage of a passenger when they're not. So that would have been an improper use of their power.”
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