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Thousands of fines for overdue vehicle registrations may be invalid

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    Wellington man Luke Domb received a $200 fine for failing to renew his car registration. His lawyer later discovered the ticket may be invalid because of a flaw in legislation.

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for overdue vehicle registrations could be invalid, as a Wellington lawyer claims to have uncovered another flaw in traffic legislation.

    Al O’Connor, who recently filed a $1 million lawsuit for unauthorised parking fines in Lower Hutt, says he has found a loophole in the Land Transport Act 1998, meaning thousands of $200 tickets issued by police and council officials nationwide could be invalid.

    The New Zealand Transport Agency says that is not the case, but O’Connor disputes its argument.

    Wellington lawyer Al O’Connor has previously challenged time-restricted parking infringements issued by Hutt City Council.

    He came across the issue after he was approached by Wellington man Luke Domb, who received a $200 fine for his unregistered car.

    Domb claims he did not receive a reminder notice from NZTA, therefore felt he should not have to pay the fine. He asked O’Connor to take a look.

    “Al, in his diligent way, looked into it and discovered there is a prescribed form that was revoked,” Domb said.

    O’Connor found that the Government had failed to remove the reference to the 1998 regulations, which were revoked in June 2012, and to add the reference to the new ones.

    As a result, all $200 infringement notices issued since June 2012 may be invalid and may have to be refunded, he said. “You can’t take money unless you’ve got a basis to do so.”

    It is not known how many tickets have been issued since June 2012.

    In 2013, O’Connor found that, over a seven-year period, the Hutt City Council issued 72,121 infringement notices for breaches of time-restricted parking without having the proper legal foundation to do so.

    Last month, he filed a $1.1m civil claim in the High Court to cancel tickets issued between July 3, 2007, and June 17, 2014.

    O’Connor described his latest finding as a simple, but “sloppy”, mistake.

    “The traffic legislation framework in New Zealand is just a disaster. It’s a catalogue of errors.”

    While the regulations needed to be amended, they did not prevent any legal challenges, he said.

    “Parliament will need to prohibit any challenge in the same way it did with the setting of the speed limits bylaw issue earlier this year. But can Parliament cite safety concerns to justify the use of urgency in this case? You’d think not.”

    Parliament rammed through law changes in July to validate tens of thousands of potentially illegal speeding tickets.

    The tickets were issued in up to 25 local government areas that may have failed to renew their speed limits from 2004, meaning all tickets issued on roads other than the open road for the past 11 years could have been invalid.

    In a rare move, the Government backdated the law changes in just a matter of hours to ensure no one could mount a legal challenge.

    An NZTA spokesman said that, in Domb’s case, the replacement of one set of regulations by another did not make infringement notices invalid.

    Under New Zealand law, references to repealed and replaced enactments, including acts and regulations, were automatically updated, he said.

    O’Connor rejected this argument.

    Transport Minister Simon Bridges declined to comment.

    * A motor vehicle must be registered and licensed
    * If you don’t keep your vehicle licensed, and you operate that vehicle, you commit an offence under the law and can receive a $200 fine
    * Land Transport Regulations describe how the infringement notice must look, and outlines the information it must contain
    * The regulations say any infringement notice for an unlicensed vehicle must be on the prescribed form found in the schedule of the 1998 regulations
    * The 1998 regulations (with the prescribed form) were revoked in June 2012. O’Connor argues that, without a prescribed form, there can be no valid infringement notices or fines


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