• Motorists have been urged to check any traffic infringements carefully.
• Capture errors can cause motorists to be incorrectly charged with criminal offences.
• JPSA no longer has confidence that proper reviews are being done of violations.
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Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) has warned vehicle owners to carefully check any speed camera-based traffic fines they receive or happen to discover on their banking app or on the internet.
So-called 'capture errors' were causing motorists to be incorrectly charged with infringements and criminal offences they didn't commit.
In one recent case, a motorist faced a criminal charge because the location of the infringement was incorrectly recorded.
In that instance, the motorist was on a freeway, travelling at 134km/h in a 120km/h zone and should have received an infringement notice for exceeding the 120km/h limit by 14km/h. The image shows his vehicle on the freeway. However, the location at which the violation was alleged to have occurred was given as an urban road several kilometres away, in an 80km/h zone.
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Using the incorrect location, the motorist was no longer alleged to have been just 14km/h over the speed limit, but a massive 54km/h over it. Exceeding the speed limit by more than 30km/h in an urban area is automatically classified as a criminal offence and triggers a mandatory court appearance.
For this reason, it is essential that the authorities record the location of an alleged violation correctly, both to prevent spurious criminal charges like in this case, but also to ensure genuine traffic offenders are brought to book.
The JPSA was assisting the motorist to have the defective notice of intention to prosecute him in court withdrawn but remained concerned that the same location mistake may have applied to many other camera violations recorded at the same place on the same day.
Camera violations are meant to be reviewed by traffic officers before being issued to prevent this kind of error. JPSA no longer has confidence that these reviews are being done properly, or indeed at all, which raises the greater question of what levels of oversight exist in traffic law enforcement.
Howard Dembovsky is the chairman of Justice Project South Africa