22 June 2021

Access Canberra to review speed camera system after leap-year debacle

| Ian Bushnell
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Speed cameras

System errors meant infringement notices from 10 speed cameras were issued with the wrong date. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government will conduct an independent review of the system running its speed camera network to ensure the leap-year blunder that resulted in a ticket being successfully challenged in court is not repeated.

Access Canberra says the error occurred last year between 29 February and 16 March when a system error meant infringement notices did not account for the 2020 leap year.

Infringement notices were issued from 10 speed cameras with an incorrect date, but the photographs of all the detected incidents of speeding were time and date stamped correctly and were available to be viewed, and the cameras measured the speed correctly at all times, it says.

The system error, which occurred due to a third-party vendor system fault, was quickly corrected once identified, but a total of 623 infringement notices were issued with an incorrect date, and 75 remain unresolved.

Internal memos show a decision to stand by the notices and not re-issue them due to concerns about the impact it might have on road safety messaging was incorrect.

READ MORE Speeding fines open to legal challenges following landmark ruling

In January 2021, Access Canberra wrote to everyone who received an affected infringement notice to explain the system error and confirm that the notices were legally valid and enforceable.

But Braidwood retiree Dennis Levy challenged the speeding ticket in court and won, arguing that the Road Traffic Authority’s refusal to withdraw and reissue the infringement within the stipulated 28-day period made it invalid.

Access Canberra says those who still have not dealt with their ticket should contact Access Canberra or elect to take the matter to court.

It says the 75 unresolved matters are at varying stages of enforcement, including licence or registration suspension, warning of suspension, and issuing of the infringement notice to another party following a declaration that the registered owner of the vehicle was not driving it at the time of the offence.

Access Canberra is now commissioning an independent check of the system to provide additional assurance that all issues relating to the recording of the time and date on infringement notices have been fully rectified, and the outcomes will be made public.

This follows an assurance from the system vendor that the ‘leap year’ system error will not happen again and that infringement penalty notices issued to motorists caught speeding contain the correct information.

The technical glitch has cast a shadow over the speed camera network, but the government says the ACT community can continue to have confidence in the Territory’s road safety camera system.

“All road safety cameras in the ACT are tested every 12 months. This is to ensure they continue to operate correctly and remain accurate in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications,” it says.

“Speed continues to be a major contributing factor to road crash trauma. The ACT’s road safety camera network is a vital tool for preventing speeding and unsafe driving practices, which endanger the community and are a major contributor to injury and death on ACT roads.”

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Thank you Ian Bushnell for reporting on this. The standard set by the ACT magistrate, James Lawton, in this case was excellent. The Access Canberra prosecutor was extremely aggressive and depended on a rule saying that he could amend the summons at any stage in the case to fix the “systems error” (now a year after issuing the infringement). After very thorough consideration, the magistrate ruled that the prosecution did not have the right to amend because it would prejudice the defendant. The magistrate also said it was inexplicable why Access Canberra did not simply re-issue a correct infringement notice after being notified promptly that the original was defective. It appears that not only was the software for automatically issuing the infringement notices defective, but also the workflow software for processing infringements did not properly handle this scenario, leading to a horrific waste of resources and horrific prejudice to the lives of ordinary people. Since the defendant could not afford a lawyer, there was no costs order against Access Canberra, so they have been left unpunished.

If one considers it to be obvious that the defendant would be prejudiced by Access Canberra amending the summons at such a late stage, then these actions of Access Canberra show a cruel and despotic attitude towards the people it governs, and their case depended on abuse of the Justice system to bully a distressed defendant into submission.

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