Ask LH: Can I Still Contest A 'Final' Fine Demand In Court?

Dear Lifehacker, my husband recently received a final notice from SDRO for an offence from five years ago for parking his motorbike in his residential area for longer than allowed. He didn't receive any notice on the spot and moved house soon afterward (he updated his address on the RTA website.) He never received any notice whatsoever, until now. Because it was a final notice he was no longer eligible to contest it in court.

He rang SDRO and stumbled across an arrogant person that without hearing him or trying to help, asked him 6 times (!!!) if he's paying NOW. She said to him that they were sending the notices to his old address - even though he had updated his address. What are our options? Thanks, MM

Bike exhaust picture from Shutterstock

Dear MM,

Obligatory caveat: I'm not a lawyer and getting distinct legal advice may be an option you wish to pursue.

By the sounds of it, your husband actually did commit the offence in question — or at least that's the way that you've phrased it. If that's the case, and were it me, I'd pay the fine and get on with life. Yes, it's painful, but this is the way road rules are structured.

However, if that's not the case and he wants to contest the matter, I'd suggest fronting up to the SDRO in person rather than over the phone to state his case. Why? Because if the SDRO is willing to state on the record (and you can grab employee details and so on) that they'd repeatedly sent the notices to the wrong address, it would add a little fuel to any potential court challenge. Essentially what you need to prove is that a legal notice of the fine was never actually served to your husband.

The NSW Fines Act (1996) states that

A person alleged to have committed or to be guilty of the offence to which a penalty notice relates:   (a) has the right to elect to have the matter dealt with by a court instead of under the statutory provision providing for the issue of the penalty notice, and (b) may make that election: (i) in the manner specified in that statutory provision, or (ii) if no manner is specified in that statutory provision—in the manner specified in the penalty notice, or (iii) if no manner is specified in that statutory provision or in the penalty notice—in the manner specified by the regulations.

The issue here is that you're stating that the initial penalty notice was never served, and from the sounds of it, the SDRO admits that it sent notices to the incorrect address for several years. What you need to do is tie that information together, preferably in writing with evidence that the address was properly updated with what would have then been the RTA, and that the SDRO continued to send notices to an incorrect address in that timeframe. With that, you should have reasonable grounds to warrant requesting a court hearing.

Time probably isn't on your side in this matter, however. Five years is a long time to leave an issue like this, so you'd want to have plenty of other evidence on hand to show that he couldn't reasonably have known that it was a restricted parking space, such as pictures from the time that show the space being legitimate at that point.

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Comments

    I get the impression that the SDRO is being used by the councils as the dumping ground for fines they haven't presented themselves.
    Had a situation similar to this, fined for something that occurred years ago, but had never received the original fine notice for.
    Ended up paying the fine just to be done with it, but was really peeved that council had been too lazy to send me the original fine, as I would have contested it - which may be the reason why.
    As my registered address has remained the same in the last 8 years, I know for sure that they had not sent me any fine. Bastards.

    TLDR: in my case, the council who issued the fine were able to waive it - and were much more responsive than the SDRO.

    Full story:
    My experience did not involve a 5 year delay, but may provide some insight:

    I was fined for parking in the wrong spot. I tried to follow the rules, and thought I was, but clearly the person fining me disagreed.
    I immediately challenged my fine with the SDRO through the normal channels, with photos and self-righteous indignation, stating my position - and it was swiftly dismissed. SDRO maintained their position and the fine would stand.

    I was rather annoyed by this (clear signage with have really helped me follow the rules, so it felt like a revenue raising exercise), so I wrote a letter to my local Mayor (my house, and this infringement, are in the same council) - simply complaining about the ticket, and asking for more clear signage.
    To my surprise, I received a letter from the Mayor's office, saying that they reviewed my request, and waived the fine. They were also looking into options to make the parking restrictions more clear there too!

    Hopefully you'll also have more luck by tracking down the source of the fine. These infringements are a 'service' to the local councils, helping them enforce their rules and discourage certain behaviours, and it's pretty clear that in this case, SDRO let you and the local council down.

    Five years? First mistake was ringing them and not ignoring it. Now you're aware and they'll chase it up.

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