– motorists can be fined $250,000, jailed for three months
“So, for a parking violation, a parking violation; you haven’t killed anybody; you can find yourself in prison…” – Attorney Pauline Chase
Smart City Solutions apparently now has the status of being judge, jury and executioner, based on the enforcement activities it is allowed to carry-out under the parking meter by-laws, as it relates to the public auctioning of impounded vehicles.
This was observed by attorney-at-law Pauline Chase on Saturday at a Town Hall meeting organised by the Movement against Parking Meters, at St. Stanislaus College.
Chase said that based on Section 55 of the by-laws governing the project, an impounded vehicle, which is not claimed within ninety days, can be sold by the company through public auction.
“This is in breach of all natural law principles. The City and Smart City Solutions by extension have just become the judge, jury and executioner for a traffic infringement. There is no recourse to the court. They can sell it on their own; they issue a certificate and ask the Registrar or the Commissioner-General to transfer registration.”
The lawyer went onto say that this power given to the company is also a constitutional infringement, since it is deprivation of property without due process.
To further explain her point, Chase used the example of someone who is paying a mortgage. She said that under a mortgage agreement, commercial banks do not have the automatic power to take property if someone is in default on payments.
She said that before a bank can claim ownership of the property, it must obtain an order from the court before foreclosing on the property. After this is done, the defaulter has the option to then challenge that order in court, an option not available under the parking meter by-laws.
“What they are attempting to do is remove the whole court process from this parking meter system and it is quite strange.”
Further, Chase said that under the by-laws, specifically Section 69, neither the company nor the City bears any liability or responsibility for any damage done in the execution of the by-laws.
“So if your car is damaged, they bear no liability for any damage to you or your person, whether they assault you.”
Emphasizing other sections of the by-laws, Chase pointed out Section 57 which deals with ‘Offence by parking warden.” The section says that no parking warden is liable for any offence while carrying out duties.
“So what they have tried to do is remove any recourse to the courts and that is wholly unconstitutional. We all have the right to redress to the court for any infraction done to us.”
Chase said that the M&CC, along with SCS has therefore used what is termed subsidiary legislation, to remove a citizen’s constitutional right to recourse in the court.
“The constitution is supreme and anything that is in conflict with the constitution is unenforceable and unlawful and it would rightfully be struck down by the court.”
Other Sections of the by-laws which the attorney believes are good reason for concern include Section 21(6) which speaks to ‘Other restricted parking”.
The section prohibits parking in any area other than metered parking space in any metered parking zone. According to her, this means that if there is metered and unmetered parking in any area, motorists are prohibited from parking in the unmetered section. Failure to do this would be in breach of the by-laws and will attract the relevant penalties.
Further, the attorney said that any infraction by a motorist can result in a fine of $100,000 to $250,000 or attract up to three months imprisonment. “So for a parking violation, a parking violation; you haven’t killed anybody; you can find yourself in prison for up to three months.”
Thirdly, Chase explained that there is no grace period or standard system for immobilisation or booting of vehicles. She said that immobilisation can occur not only for a breach of parking violations, but also traffic laws.
She explained that the provision with the Municipal and District Council Act Cap. 28:01 specifically makes itself subject to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act. According to Chase, this means the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act takes precedence over the Municipal and District Councils Act.
Chase noted that the control of traffic comes under the authority of the Guyana Police Force. “So the talk about the need to control traffic in the city and all of that is an excuse for what we have been saddled with. It is a bit misplaced because it does not fall under the purview strictly of the council.”
She said that if the project continues under the manner it has been set out in the by-laws, Guyana will have a foreign company executing the enforcement of traffic law infringement.
“That falls under the purview of the police, not a foreign company. I cannot imagine that a Guyanese company would have the liberty to go to Mexico or wherever these people are from, executing traffic laws. It boggles my mind that this is what we’re now tied to.”
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