THE fate of motorists who owe traffic tickets will now be in the hands of the court, as the Government has made clear that no more time will be given to accommodate those rushing to make good, ahead of the February 1 roll-out of the new Road traffic Act, and looming arrest warrants for delinquents.
"There is absolutely nothing unfair about it. The individuals who are complaining now, some of them have had four years, three years, two years. They breached the law, and they disrespected the law. They had time to go to court. We had two amnesties which have created great confusion in the system, we have set a date, within reasonable time. Closure will come on the 31st of January," National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang stated on Thursday, as Opposition Leader Mark Golding sought to have the Road Traffic (Reprieve and Nullification of Prescribed Notices) Act, 2023, amended to adjust the reprieve period from January 31 to April 30. The Bill was brought to the House of Representatives by Transport Minister Audley Shaw.
Golding argued that persons will not benefit from the legislation, which most likely will expire by the time it is taken through all the stages and gazetted.
The Opposition has called for a pushback of the reprieve expiration date, pointing to the run on traffic courts, particularly in the Corporate Area over the past several days, and that many have been given court dates that are months away.
"The technical people have spent many hours working hard to get to a point where we could create a date of closure. The people who are complaining are not deserving of any further concession...I didn't tell them not to pay their tickets. They're out there laughing at the police," Dr Chang argued.
Golding, in responding, said: "The problem with your arrangement is that your system can't accommodate the reprieve that you're trying to put in place. You can't provide a window, and when they seek to avail themselves of that window, it isn't possible to do so because the courts are overwhelmed and can't give them a date for settling their liability within the reprieve period. So they can't get the benefit of the nullification of their demerit point, if they do not pay prior to the end of January, and they can't pay prior to the end of January because the court cannot accommodate them. That is unfair and illogical."
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, meanwhile, contended that motorists who owe have had plenty of time to get their affairs in order. "They put themselves at the mercy of the court, and the court can make a decision when it is adjudicated. The position of the Government is that no convenient way is going to be provided [to pay]. You go to court, and the court can make the decision." He pointed out that demerit points do not accrue in the first place, until tickets are paid, at which point they would be expunged, as per the reprieve.
Minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, who has been charged with oversight of the National Road Safety Council, Floyd Green, said going before a judge does not automatically mean doom for the motorist.
"Those who acted early, those who acted in good faith will see significant benefit. When persons go in the judges will have their discretion and they will treat with the matter on a case by case basis. We must not always believe that going before the judge means that some ill-will will befall you," he said.
Green told the House that between February 1, 2018 and December 2022, 2,371,494 traffic tickets were issued, and 1,666, 371, or 71 per cent have been paid, which means most persons are paying their tickets. As of December, 46,000 motorists had 106,070 tickets outstanding; 45 motorist have more than 500 outstanding, and 1, 773 have between 100 and 500 tickets.
As set out in the Bill, those who qualify for reprieve for which prescribed notices were issued under Section 116 of the old Road Traffic Act, and pay outstanding traffic penalties to the traffic court are entitled to the relief and will not be held liable, nor proceedings taken against them for the specified offence.