Have you ever gotten a fine or ticket and just known you did the right thing? What about if you know you technically broke the rules but you think you’re in the right? Did you fight it?
An Ipswich man doesn’t fall into either category. He knows he broke the rules; he just refuses to acknowledge the constitutional power of the local council to make them.
Bill Longford of Ipswich has over 20 parking fines accrued over 2 years to the total of $1000. Instead of setting up a payment plan or selling his limited edition strat, he’s decided to challenge the validity, not of the tickets, but of the Constitutional authority of the local government itself.
Now for non-legal eagles the Constitution is the foundation of all legal authority in Australia, authorised by the sovereign monarchy when the country was federated. It may not seem relevant in everyday life but it sets the bounds of the separation of powers, due process and the authority of lawmakers and enforcers alike.
His argument is that as the local councils aren’t established by the Constitution they do not have the authority to make or enforce their by-laws.
Anarchy in Ipswich
Now this would be an interesting outcome, though it could turn Ipswich into a Mad Max-esque hell-scape within weeks, as people park in the middle of the road, litter, swing on chandeliers and generally enjoy the hubris of a town without law.
However it is also a fairly shaky argument. Parliament is able to delegate lawmaking powers to local government and even private bodies, as long as they don’t infringe on the judicial powers of the state and federal courts.
Bill Longford quotes a lot of his sources from Aussie Speeding Fines. Now this website reads like a sales pitch for one of those $400 an hour ‘work from home websites’ that require a $350 start-up fee. It also has the design aesthetic of the Warner Brothers Space Jam website.
Both these websites probably have similar levels of factual legal content.
Making up the Law for Fun and Profit
Now the thing is, this “Kangaroo-court, make up your own law” attitude is just a little bit misguided, for example read this little snippet from a self-proclaimed expert-
“You beat all fines given by the Government, because they are a corporation, a corporation has a ABN number, correct? No company can hold any person in Debt Bondage! (Slavery Act Australian Constitution) Unless there is a mutually signed contract. Since nobody would willingly sign one, They cannot make you pay! Do some homework, THIS IS FACT!”
While to an educated person this may seem hilarious, it can also be dangerous. Firstly it will lead people into thinking they can get out of a fine when they can’t. This could lead to higher fines and court costs. Even if Bill did get this to the High Court the counsel costs alone would be enormous… Let’s just say it’d be cheaper to pay the fine.
Bill has declared (based on his research) he doesn’t need to pay if they don’t respond to his claims in 12 months, however Cr Tully confirmed while “legal action for simple offences has to be commenced within 12 months of the date of commission of the offence… if you have committed a parking offence and proceedings have commenced within the 12 months, they can be continued.”
So while he sits on this for 12 months on bad advice from an ugly website, his costs and fines are just increasing.
The other problem with the misinformation out there is that it also masks the actual valid ways you can challenge a speeding ticket.
Fighting the Good Fight
You can and should contest tickets and fines if you believe there is a mistake, the process is explained on the notice and it is usually as simple as writing a letter. Even a handwritten response will suffice if you don’t have access to a computer and printer. Half an hour of your time to potentially save $200 is a pretty good deal.
If however you did do the wrong thing, but wish to challenge the validity of the issuing authority then you’re straying into constitutional and administrative law territory.
A good constitutional lawyer may be able to field the argument that the powers are outside of the scope of the executive branch of government set by the constitution. People have fought the status-quo and won before, look at the Mabo decision, or the entire Legally Blonde series. But frankly the chances of success are low, and the costs will be high.
If you’re in the right and there’s been a mistake then there are avenues to challenge a ticket. If you’re stuck or not sure of the best way to approach it, legal aid or your local solicitor will help. If you’re just trying to get out of a fine because you were speeding to work after you slept in, then pay the fine, get out of bed earlier and leave Constitutional Law to the big boys.
Sam is a guest blogger who comments on Law, Entertainment, Tech and Fashion. His scribbles can be found here.