The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) has cancelled 6 million traffic fines valued at about R1.35 billion, closing the chapter on its unlawful practice of sending infringement notices by normal mail.
This followed a report by the Public Protect and pressure from Justice Project South Africa (JPSA). It affects fines issued since April 1, 2009, to December 2012 that did not comply with the obligation to have it served by registered mail.
Fines administrator Fines4U also obtained judgement with cost against the JMPD in February 2014 with regard to five instances of similar unlawful service of documents during the same period.
JPSA spokesperson Howard Dembovski emphasised that the decision applies to infringement notices in terms of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Act starting with the prefix 02-4024. No further action will be taken to enforce payment of these fines.
The Aarto Act is currently only in operation in Johannesburg and Tshwane, but may be rolled out countrywide next year, after several earlier false starts.
The Public Protector in December recommended as remedial action that the JMPD should apologise publicly to road users for its unlawful actions. This was done in March when the JMPD published newspaper advertisements to that effect.
At that stage, the JMPD however maintained that road users had to submit representations before the fines could be finalised.
Dembovski said the JPSA pointed out in a letter to the JMPD and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA) the administrative burden this also placed on the JMPD. About two weeks ago it was informed of a change of heart at the JMPD and that all these fines would be finalised.
Gerrie Gerneke, speaking for JMPD, said the organisation waited for authorisation from the RTIA that functions as Aarto registrar to effect the finalisations.
Dembovski said the JMPD would not repay motorists who have already paid unlawfully issued fines, as it considers the payment as an admission of guilt. “JPSA disagrees with this assertion, given the fact that the JMPD is notorious for setting up roadblocks where metro police officers intimidate people into payng fines under threat of arrest and/or detention, even though the Aarto Act does not cater for Warrents of Arrest for infringement notices. We hold that coercion does not constitute “admission of guilt”, Dembovski said.
JPSA will focus its efforts on obtaining reimbursements for motorists who made such payments, Dembovski said.