Paying a price for broken system

Magistrate Stephen Wilson expressed his frustration while hearing a case against Robert Wesley Drzal.

Drzal appeared in Rockingham Magistrates Court charged with driving without a licence, suspended because of unpaid fines.

He told the court he had received a letter from Baycorp informing him that his licence had been returned. While driving, he was picked up by police, whose records stated Drzal�s licence was still suspended.

Magistrate Wilson said it was a complicated system.

�The fine system is a disaster; no one can get a straight answer,� he said.

�It�s just an absolute disgrace.

�We spend half our lives in court trying to figure this out.

�What people have to try and deal with is just ridiculous.�

He said people had three to four separate agencies to deal with, such as the Department of Transport (DoT), the courts and Baycorp.

�It�s just a very, very difficult system to get into,� he said

�It would be a lot simpler to deal with just one agency.�

Drzal said he would plead guilty to have the matter finished.

He said he should have not let payments on his fines lapse before they went to Baycorp.

Magistrate Wilson said it would not go away.

�I am not going to accept a plea of guilty on convenience,� he said. �Not guilty is defendable if you believe you weren�t under fine suspension.�

Drzal said upcoming work training commitments prevented him from further court appearances. He still pleaded guilty and received $200 in fines.

A spokeswoman for the Department of the Attorney General said there were many reasons why someone might have their licence suspended or cancelled, from demerit points suspension to cancellation on medical grounds.

She said that the department did not keep that information and all licensing matters were the responsibility of the DoT.

However, she said the department could make a suspension order through the Fines Enforcement Registry if the offender owed money.

A DoT spokeswoman said it maintained a register of licences and vehicles.

�DoT updates its database using information provided by the Department of the Attorney General regarding disqualifications and licence suspension orders,� she said.

She said drivers should check their current authorisation to drive on the department�s website.

�If you don�t pay your infringement notice in the prescribed or statutory period, it is referred to the Fines Enforcement Registry (FER), where a court order is issued,� she said. �Failing to pay an infringement notice can result in the loss of a driver�s or vehicle licence, even if your fine was not traffic related.�

Baycorp declined to comment.