Some of the issues arising from the Supreme Court’s temporary injunction against costly traffic tickets will be addressed at today’s rare emergency sitting of Parliament scheduled to begin at 11:00 am, according to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck.
“I can’t say to what extent, but at least some of these issues will be addressed,” Chuck told the Jamaica Observer last night following a series of meetings involving Government ministers and public servants assigned to the various agencies and bodies connected with the policing of traffic tickets and collection of the fines.
The issue was brought to light by a class action suit brought by a Jamaican, Maurice Housen, against the attorney general and the commissioner of police, that he had been denied due process as set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
Housen took up the matter with the court in July after being issued with a ticket which indicated that he had breached Section 26 of the Road Traffic Act of 1938 by driving above the speed limit. The ticket had a fixed penalty but, according to him, the charge should have been $800, based on the 1938 Act.
He also noted that, while there are fixed penalties for offences under the Road Traffic Act of 1938, those penalties have not been increased by Parliament since – although the finance minister, in 2006 and 2007, had increased them under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act in a case where he contended that no such power existed.
Media reports yesterday said the issue could have negative implications for the budget, as it had been projected that over $220 million would be raised from ticket fines during the fiscal year. There is also concern that the lowered ticket fees could encourage reckless use of the roads by errant motorists.
In September 2018 Parliament passed a Transport Authority (Validation and Indemnity) Bill, piloted by current Minister of Transport Robert Montague who explained that the Transport Authority, in good faith, had been collecting fees from the operators of public passenger vehicles in the absence of legislative authority prior to December 9, 2015, when the Transport Authority Fees Regulations were gazetted.
The fees collected were used to defray expenses connected with the authority’s functions of regulating and monitoring public transportation. The minister had sought to correct the anomaly, and to indemnify the officers who collected the fees.
However, Chuck said yesterday that there was a difference between fees paid and the penalties which fall under the Road Traffic Act.
He said that, up to press time, the Government was still working on an appropriate Bill which could clarify the situation.