Government is projected to save millions of dollars by reducing the penalties of thousands of unpaid tickets that are before the courts.
The first time amnesty will soon be offered to 80,000 unpaid tickets holders whose matters have been pending before the courts for years, said Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi. Failure to take advantage of the offer, the AG said can result in violators facing additional penalties on their unpaid tickets and the police coming after them.
The move, Al-Rawi said in a recent telephone interview will save the State “significant cost,” stating that these matters tied up in court system were a waste of judicial manpower.
He said the issue was not about losing revenue by slashing the unpaid tickets by half but removing them completely from the courts.
During debate on the Miscellaneous Bill in Parliament last Wednesday, Al-Rawi said there were between 60,000 to 80,000 traffic offences that had been lingering before the courts.
He said Government had proposed a new Section 50 under the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic Act, as they were now offering a 50 per cent sale on old traffic tickets.
He appealed to violators to avoid going through painful and expensive exercises and to step forward and pay the fixed tickets at the reduced price since this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The offer, he said, would help reduce a backlog of cases before the courts.
“Crime is the number one issue in the country. The constant cry has been access to justice. Every judicial officer we have occupied with matters that should not be there….fixed penalty tickets is wasted judicial manpower,” the AG told Guardian Media.
Questioned how much revenue Government stood to lose with the slash in ticket prices, Al-Rawi said he was not focused on that but how much the country can save.
He said there were approximately 172,000 cases that were in arrears. To police those cases, he said, several people had to attend court, ranging from magistrates, police officers and court workers. Police officers also faced the task of serving summons and warrants to those who break the law.
“So it cost the state far more to bring those matters in than to possibly save them. This is not so much a matter of revenue forgone. This move will remove 104,000 cases per year from the traffic system.”
The AG said the case load of 43 magistrates would be reduced from 146,000 to 7,500 per year.
“This means that justice begins to move on time.”
As to when the Government would implement the reduced payments, Al-Rawi said Cabinet would make a decision on that shortly.
“The launch will remove the issuance of fixed penalty tickets and allow it to go on an electronic system. This law of the 50 per cent sale is tied into the proclamation of that.”
Failure to take advantage of the offer, the AG said the matter will continue to be treated under the old system.
“That is where the offences are still in existence …a system which is difficult to process. But secondly, the law says we can vary the penalty and we intend to vary it upwards. If you don’t take advantage of the 50 per cent cut now it (penalty) is going to go to 75 per cent and then by 100 per cent. If you don’t appear before the court a summons or warrant may be issued for you. The police will be looking for you.”
Al-Rawi said they are giving all violators an opportunity to wipe their slate clean and avoid being held in a police road block for not paying the ticket.