120,000 parking tickets may be disputed

CLEAR AS: Chris Peace is disputing a parking fine he got over the out-of-date legislation referred to on the ticket.
CLEAR AS: Chris Peace is disputing a parking fine he got over the out-of-date legislation referred to on the ticket.

The legality of more than 100,000 parking tickets dished out in Wellington is in question after the fines quoted an out-of-date law.

Wellington City Council has confirmed it issued up to 120,000 parking fines between May and October last year, quoting the Transport Act 1962 - despite the act being repealed on May 10, 2011.

Now the tickets have been labelled "eminently challengeable" by lawyer John Miller.

The council stands by the infringement notices, however, saying it sought legal advice and the tickets were fine.

The reference to the expired legislation was noticed by Wellington man Chris Peace after he was ticketed for parking in a clearway.

While disputing whether Featherston St should be considered a clearway, he also questioned the legality of the ticket.

He eventually paid the $60 fine after the dispute became too costly and time-consuming.

Mr Peace was stunned to learn so many tickets were issued quoting the wrong act. "That's a lot of tickets that are wrongly issued. If they had said to me, ‘oh well, since you asked, there were a couple of hundred tickets . . .' Well, in a function like that, that sort of error would perhaps be tolerable."

People should be able to look at the relevant act to see if they had complied - but in this case the act was not relevant, he said.

The tickets quoted section 42A of the Transport Act 1962 and section 139 of the Land Transport Act 1998, which covers the issuing of infringement notices.

Wellington City Council spokesman Grahame Armstrong said the council had waited until the legislation was final before printing new tickets, and the tickets quoting the 1962 act were old stock that the council had used up.

Today, tickets reference the Land Transport Act 1998.

The council had received legal advice the tickets were valid, Mr Armstrong said. "The information on the tickets was accurate because while it referred to the Transport Act 1962, it also referred to the Land Transport Act 1998 (section 139), which was current at the time.

"The function of an infringement notice is to fairly inform. The reference to the act relates to the authority to issue the ticket, not the alleged breach."

But Mr Miller said the tickets would be "eminently challengeable", because the legal reference to the offence should have been included, not just the right to issue the fine. "To specify an offence under a section which is no longer valid would, in my mind, no longer be valid. By specifically mentioning section 42A . . . which is no longer in existence, then they're referring to an offence."

Victoria University law lecturer Catherine Iorns agreed that "on the face of it" it "would be worth questioning" the tickets.

However, whether a person would win a challenge was uncertain. While a judge could find that the council should have been more careful and listed the correct legislation, they could equally find that the incorrect wording did not change the fact that a person committed the offence and should not get off on a technicality, she said.