Crackdown on unpaid fixed penalties By Sunny Esparon |30 May 2023
Unpaid fixed traffic penalties issued by the Seychelles Land Transport Agency (SLTA) dating back to October 2022 onwards will now be prosecuted in court, the agency has announced.
The manager for Highway Patrol Unit of the Department for Land Transport, Natasha Marengo, explained that since she took office, the department has had quite a backlog of unpaid fixed penalties.
“When I arrived with my police baggage, I saw this as constraining,” she explained. “The government is spending on a new unit, workers are issuing tickets but the tickets are not being paid. What is next? There needs to be a prosecution,” she said.
She stated that there cannot be any slacking and the government spending for printing the documents to issue the ticket needs to be a decent investment.
She explained that people have had adequate time to pay their tickets within the 14-day period. Even when a reminder is sent by the department, she stated that the public continue to refuse to pay the ticket.
Moreover, she explained that she has also noticed that the public only paid the police fines and not the SLTA fines. This was due to the fact that the police fines had follow-ups compared to the SLTA tickets.
“The time of paying only the police tickets and not land transport, is done. They need to understand that once you are not paying the land transport tickets, you will be taken to court.”
There is now a strategy in place and even a small investigation unit to investigate these unpaid tickets. “We have files on hand that are going through the process and we are waiting for just a few documents before we send the documents to the Attorney General’s office to start serving summons to offenders.”
Ms Marengo explained that there have been extra steps taken where workers were previously bringing incidents such as tinted windows to the police, as they did not have competent personnel, but they are now able to properly handle such situations and will be prosecuting the offenders.
She also added that workers who hand out the tickets are not just traffic wardens. They are protected under the Police Force Act for minor offenses and should be viewed as if they are a police officer.
“Even if there are times where an arrest needs to be made, they do it as a civilian arrest and the police will take over from there.”
She mentioned that the department has begun to recognise the most common illegal practices such as failure to wear seatbelts, tinted windows, vehicles without patent or insurance and drivers without a license. In town, the most common offense is people having no respect for proper parking spaces. “These are things that we need to discontinue.”
Ms Marengo has advised the public to pay their fines within the 14 days to avoid prosecution. “I would rather advise them to pay because the magistrate can give them an even more severe sentence. They could be in a situation where if they have been fined R1000, they could be paying a heftier fine, or even have their licenses revoked by the court.”
Repeat offenders will also be penalised heavily, especially when they go for their tests. The Vehicle Testing Station (VTS) has their system under the same parent ministry as SLTA, where they will be able to see if the driver has ever had a fixed penalty.
“This could be an impact preventing you from passing your test to get your road license. If tomorrow you go for your test and you have not paid your fixed penalty, they can see that and will make you pay it first.”
Crimes such as failing to wear seatbelt and parking in a restricted area, will have 14 days and a shorter time frame to settle the fixed penalty. However, offences such as tinted windows and non-payment of insurance, will not incur fixed penalties, but will be tried in court instantly.
“Your statement will be given and your traffic records will be piled up to be brought to court.”
There are two types of offences in regards to insurance for road fund, namely where the driver has no insurance and it has never been paid, in which case it goes directly to court, and where your insurance is valid but it is not available to be produced at the time, in which case, it is classified as ‘failing to affix’. After seeing the validity of the insurance through the system, a ticket will be issued. The road fund can be crosschecked through the licensing system.
Should someone feel that they are being tried for the wrong reason, their case is treated like any other case and they will be able to have a lawyer to dispute the case. “However, the sentence will depend on the magistrate,” she explained.
In addition, Ms Marengo explained that this is a warning that unpaid fixed penalties will no longer be tolerated and the law will not be ignored any longer.
“For me, the time of second chances is over and the time for warnings is over. People have been abusing this system too much, where people have been just giving fix penalties but nothing has been done,” she stated.
Ms Marengo said the workers under her direction will no longer be slacking off but instead be involved personally in fixed penalties and court cases. “At the end of the day, they will all be satisfied. This system where we give a penalty and go home when 5pm strikes is gone. They are in a new working dimension and members of the public will have more respect for us.”