TRAFFIC OFFENCES – COURTESY LETTERS AND INFRINGEMENT NOTICES PEREMPTORY

FINES4U (PTY) LTD AND ANOTHER v DEPUTY REGISTRAR, ROAD TRAFFIC INFRINGEMENT AGENCY, AND OTHERS 2017 (2) SACR 35 (GP)

Traffic offences — Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act 46 of 1998 — Adjudication of offences under Act — Provisions of Act regarding sending of courtesy letters and infringement notices peremptory — Failure by Road Traffic Infringement Agency to follow precepts leading to notices and penalties being set aside.

The first applicant (Fines4u (Pty) Ltd) conducted a business representing members of the public and corporate and state entities in making representations to the respondents in respect of traffic offences and facilitating the payment of fines and penalties. During such business, it made enquiries on behalf of the second applicant directed to the fourth respondent, the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (the Agency), in respect of 639 infringement notices issued against the second applicant resulting in penalties amounting to R322 000. These infringements were allegedly committed between 2008 and 2013. After Fines4u received this schedule it made 570 representations which were all identical except that some were made at the infringement notice stage and some at the courtesy letter stage.

It was common cause that the process was never advanced beyond the infringement notice stage and the infringement notices were never served on the second applicant, as was required in terms of s 30 of the Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act 46 of 1998 (AARTO). Of these representations, 155 were successful and 208 were unsuccessful despite their being based on the same grounds. By the time the present application was launched, 207 had not yet been adjudicated upon. The unsuccessful representations had a fee of R200 attached to them, incurring a total penalty of R41 600 for the account of the second applicant. When Fines4u enquired about the whereabouts of the ‘AARTO 09 result of representation form’ it was informed that the Agency no longer sent them to persons submitting representations. When no reasons in terms of s 18(7), or the AARTO 09 forms were received, Fines4u, after calling in the assistance of an outside agency, received a scathing letter from the Agency indicating that it had instructed all representations officers to mark all representations submitted by Fines4u (under the same or similar circumstances) as unsuccessful, with immediate effect. About the failure by the Agency to comply with the provisions of the Act, it indicated that this was because of the dysfunctionality of the Post Office as it could not send registered letters.

In the present application, the applicants sought an order inter alia that the decisions in terms of which the Fines4u’s representations were rejected, be reviewed and set aside. Further, that the decisions to impose additional penalties on rejection of the representations also be set aside.

Held, that the Agency, represented by its representations officers, had acted beyond the statutorily conferred powers by not following the AARTO process, which was couched in peremptory terms, and nevertheless imposed fines and penalties after adjudicating upon the representations. These were fruitless exercises amounting to wasteful expenditure. In addition, their actions amounted to irrational conduct: conflicting decisions were given in respect of identically worded representations, no reasons were given for the decisions, there was a refusal to disclose the identity of the representations officers and the actions of the first respondent (deputy registrar of the Agency) were patently biased and unreasonable. In short, they performed actions which offended the principle of legality and on this basis the review application fell to be upheld (see [40]). Application upheld.

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