Court rules that motorists fined illegally for traffic offences are entitled to refund
The constitutional court today handed down a landmark ruling that motorists, illegally fined under the old road traffic legislation, are entitled to a refund.
The motorists had paid traffic fines which were illegally imposed under the original road traffic act, over a 15-year-period, ending in 2021.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit, filed by software engineer Maurice Housen after the police gave him a $5,000 ticket for a speeding violation in July 2021.
The fine should have been $800, based on the 1938 road traffic act, which was not amended or repealed at the time the ticket was issued to Housen.
Housen, through his lawyers, argued that when he was ticketed, fixed penalties were not increased by legislation or the minister of transport, as mandated by law.
The claimant pointed out that the fines were increased by former minister of finance Omar Davies in 2006 and 2007, and that this change was illegal.
The 1938 road traffic act was repealed in 2018.
The accompanying regulations were enacted last year February.
The constitutional court, in agreeing with the submissions, ruled today that the provisional collection of taxes under the road traffic order of 2006 and 2007, are null and void, and of no legal effect.
A declaration was made by the court that motorists who had paid monies stated on traffic tickets issued between June 15, 2006 and November 3, 202,1 which exceeded the fixed penalty described in the road traffic act of 1938, are entitled to refunds, upon proof of payment.
The court also ruled that the state should not be permitted to retain the proceeds of money it received without lawful authority.
It further ruled that Housen’s constitutional rights were breached and awarded him $250,000 in compensation.
A further hearing into the matter is to take place in March.
It’s expected that following further submissions from the claimant and government respondents, the court will determine how the refund should be done.
Meantime, the court told Housen that he has 21 days within which to pay the $800 fine that should have been imposed in the first place, for the ticket issued for speeding.
Meantime, transport minister Daryl Vaz has indicated that the attorney general will have to advise government how to treat with the court ordered refund of illegal traffic fines, paid by motorists.
Mr. Vaz noted that in 2006, the authorities had raised the ticket fines.
However, it was not done through the proper procedure, as it was directly done by the then finance minister, instead of going through a procedure in parliament.
This was the basis of the challenge, which the court has accepted.
Mr. Vaz said the matter was rectified in 2021, when the challenge came to the fore.
He said current enforcement should not pose a problem.