Traffic law experts say a judgement throwing out an Adelaide man’s red-light camera fine and conviction will have ongoing implications for similar cases brought to court.
- An Adelaide man had his red-light camera fine overturned because the camera was not tested properly
- Lawyers say other drivers will be able to use the precedent in court
- The SA Government could change the regulation to close the loophole
However, they have warned it will be up to defendants seeking to challenge fines to bring up the precedent themselves, on a “case-by-case basis”.
A South Australian Supreme Court judge found Adelaide man David Woolmer’s red-light camera fine was invalid because the camera had not been tested while a car was going through a red light, as required by regulations.
Instead, it was only tested on green lights to show it could photograph a car within the intersection, at the corner of Magill and Portrush roads in Beulah Park.
Last financial year, the SA Government collected $13 million in fines from drivers caught going through red lights.
There are about 140 fixed cameras at intersections, pedestrian crossing and level crossings in South Australia.
The penalty for red-light running is $496 and three demerit points, and there are more than 2,000 red-light fines handed out every month, according to SA Government statistics.
Adelaide criminal lawyer James Caldicott said there was “no suggestion all expiations issued are defective” and people would still need to challenge their fines and elect to go to court.
He said when drivers brought their case to court, it would be up to them to question whether the red-light camera they were caught with had been tested.
“The question for every other examination will be whether or not that testing has or has not occurred.
“It’s just going to just unfortunately depend, much like we’ve seen with other cases, on a case-by-case basis.”
Case won’t affect fines already paid
In Mr Woolmer’s case, Justice Greg Parker found that evidence from the Magistrates Court showed the camera had not been tested in accordance with the regulations.
The court found his charge of entering the intersection while a red arrow was displayed had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Former police officer Andrew Williams, who is now a lawyer who deals with a large number of traffic cases, said people who had already elected to pay their fine would not be eligible to have them overturned.
“They would readily expect that police wouldn’t prosecute them because the testing regime is not in compliance with the regulations.”
Mr Woolmer’s lawyer, Karen Stanley, was also involved in a Supreme Court case in 2016 that found the police’s daily calibration of their speed guns did not meet Australian standards.
Two years later, SA Police temporarily stopped using handheld speed detection laser guns, and abandoned 125 prosecutions against drivers.
Parliament then brought in legislation to allow their use.
Ian Faulks, from the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety at the Queensland University of Technology, said it was likely the SA Government would change the wording of the regulation rather than change the way red-light cameras were tested.
“It looks as though it’s one of those kinds of things where it just sort of fell between the cracks and became an accepted practice that was never challenged,” Mr Faulks said.
“It’s now been challenged and so there will be a change made very quickly.”
Yesterday, Superintendent Bob Gray said SA Police was reviewing the Supreme Court decision, and would “make further commentary on that at a later time”.
A spokesman for Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said she would wait for any advice from police before acting.