22 March 2017

Parking fine debacle plagues heart attack patient's family

| Charlotte
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Matt Peden in hospital late last year. Photo: Supplied

UPDATE (as at 5pm on March 22): The Pedens have received the following email to let them know the ACT Government is issuing a refund for the parking ticket …

Parking refund email

EARLIER STORY: Got a parking ticket for parking in a police zone at the Canberra Hospital at 4am because you were in the middle of suffering from a heart attack?

Yeah, sorry, but the parking fine stands, no matter how much documentation you provide confirming that you were indeed in the throes of a heart attack at the time of the infringement, later had open heart surgery and spent three weeks in Canberra Hospital all up followed by another three at Westmead in Sydney.

The ACT Government’s Infringement Review Office stands firm if you’re “Out of Time” by the time you come up for air to lodge the paperwork.

I’m not making this up. One night late last year, Canberra man Matt Peden woke in the early hours feeling deathly ill, and decided to drive himself to hospital rather than waking his wife and young family. As he made his way to The Canberra Hospital, he realised the extent of his illness, and parked as close as possible to the Emergency department, where he was whisked inside for the first of several months’ worth of life-saving treatment.

Our entire community was in shock to learn that Matt had been struck down in this way. Friends, teachers, colleagues and family members rallied around to help Matt’s wife Jodie juggle her work and family commitments while Matt spent six weeks in hospital in Sydney. For months, Jodie and her young children were pale, worried versions of their usual bubbly selves. It was devastating to watch.

Now we’re all shaking our heads angrily at the news that this family, who have spent weeks and months anxiously worrying about whether their husband/father would survive, must now contend with an absurd email battle over a parking ticket issued at the most critical moment in Matt’s life.

Disputing a parking ticket is the last thing on your mind when you’re trying to keep your family together while your husband fights for his life in a Sydney hospital, so it’s not surprising that the parking ticket was forgotten amid the ongoing medical emergency.

When Jodie did appealed the ticket, the Infringement Review Office initially refused her application.

“I requested a review and they said they would review the decision but were STILL cancelling my licence,” Jodie said this week.

“I couldn’t drive with a cancelled licence so I paid it.”

As a virtual single mother with young children to drive to and from school, she really had no choice.

When Jodie subsequently wrote to the Manager of the Infringement Review Office to request a review of the decision made not to accept her Out of Time application, the response was the following:

“I have reviewed this matter and as payment has now been made, the Access Canberra Parking Review Office now considers the matter finalised.”


Jodie’s email pointing out that they gave her no option but to pay the fine provides an insight into her frustrations.

“How you can look at the evidence and still feel a fine is justified is completely ridiculous,” she wrote.

“It’s not about the payment it’s about whether a fine was justified, and it ABSOLUTELY WASN’T.”

The official’s response to that email read:

“Unfortunately whilst I can understand the emergency medical situation on the day of the offence the application submitted was for a review of your Out of Time reasons. Unfortunately the medical documentation you provided did not cover the Reminder Notice period.

“In addition the infringement notice has since been paid in full and therefore you are unable to make this application.”


The official goes on to say that they will refer the matter to the Manager of Transport, Licensing and Infringements to determine whether an exemption can be applied on this occasion.

Here at the RiotACT we’re hoping this manager will recognise that some situations require public servants to put the rules to one side and show some compassion.

The ACT Government should refund the Pedens’ payment in full and issue an apology to the family for adding to their trauma in recent months.

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I don’t want to sound unsympathetic – I hate mindless and seemingly heartless bureaucracy with the best of them – but I cannot imagine why anyone, feeling deathly ill, would drive themselves to hospital. In that situation, if I felt that bad, I would for sure wake my husband to drive me to hospital (that’s one of the things he’s there for: in sickness and in health, remember) or I would call a cab or, in extremis, an ambulance. Apart from many other considerations, driving while you are that ill poses a danger to you and to anyone else on the road.

Weaselburger5:34 pm 19 Mar 17

I drove myself to emergency at Canberra hospital once a few years back and parked in the short stay carpark ( I had chronic vomiting and stomach pains and could no way walk the km or so from the main carpark) ended up spending a week in hospital.

I got a parking ticket every day when I was in there and when I appealed showing a letter from the admin people stating that I was a patient I still had to pay the fine.

How strange – I had a parking fine reversed after I had to park after driving myself to AR and was in all day under observation. I sent them a note from the hospital and the fine was cancelled no problem. I’m pretty sure the officials concerned will right things once they’ve gotten past the form letter stage and a person gets to read the facts.

“Pay parking fines promptly”. I had been parking in the 15 minute parking spaces next to the Bonner House gym at Woden for a long time and never got pinged but two weeks ago I was. I went onto the ACT Rego site the next day to pay and it didn’t recognise me. Apparently it takes a week for them to upload the information to the system. More than a week later I was able to pay the fine. I wonder if you could use bureaucratic lethargy as an excuse for not paying fines promptly?

Honestly, I have a lot of empathy for them, and it’s going to cost the office more to respond than the parking fine is worth.

Inaction is the key word in the above comment – I probably wouldn’t have dealt with it straight away either. I had no idea your licence could be suspended if you didn’t pay a parking fine promptly, and understand why she felt under duress to pay it.

Although an emergency situation, it takes more than 2 months of inaction to get to the stage of them commencing action to suspend your licence for not paying a parking fine.

Filling in the simple online form and emailing documentation in 5 minutes stops the clock. The car must have been registered to her if her licence was being suspended. She would have had to nominate him as the driver, which another infringement notice would likely have been sent with another 28 days to pay or contest.

If you do nothing for 2 months, you will have no option but to pay the fine or contest it via magistrate.

Even after paying the fine, you can still apply for a withdrawal, which would likely to a more senior officer able to authorise a refund. It looks like that this is what is exactly happening.

The officers appear to be following the process outlined in the legislation and on their website. What’s the problem?

Appears to be making a mountain out of a molehill before the process has even been finished. If unsuccessful, then you can do some complaining.

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