ACT Policing has blamed a computer glitch for notices sent this month that warned hundreds of motorists their driver's licences could be suspended if they didn't pay traffic fines handed out nearly eight years ago.
Angry recipients have slammed the notices as "bureaucracy gone mad" and a "money grab" and expressed deep frustration after their complaints triggered a string of phone calls back and forth between police and ACT government agencies.
Notices issued to drivers in recent weeks stated ACT Road Transport Authority records showed they owed money and their licence would be cancelled next month if they didn't pay up or make their case for the outstanding fines to be scrapped.
The letters are believed to have gone out to more than 1500 ACT motorists, although ACT Policing has not confirmed that figure.
One affected driver, who did not want to be named, was slapped with a $233 fine after police said they nabbed him driving 67km/h in a 60km/h zone in Canberra's north in early 2008.
The man refused to pay the fine at the time on grounds the speed limit on the section of road where he was booked was 70km/h.
He took the matter to police at the time, but never heard from them.
The letter received this month claimed a reminder notice had been sent but the man said he had changed his address and never got it.
He phoned the government's Access Canberra information line and also spoke to the RTA and then ACT Policing to complain about the notice.
An ACT Policing employee told the man he was "between a rock and a hard place" and would have to pay the fine or temporarily lose his licence, he said.
The man said the police employee told him the agency had fielded numerous calls from disgruntled drivers and the trouble had arisen after a technical glitch that arose when a police database was merged with government records.
That triggered an automated process that had reissued the suspension notices for outstanding fines, the man was told.
"This is bureaucracy gone mad," he said.
"How can they do this to the general public after eight years?"
An ACT Policing spokeswoman said a review into traffic fines issued by territory police uncovered more than 7000 infringements weren't linked to a client record on the RTA RegoACT database.
That had caused a delay in the RTA issuing numerous infringement notices.
"As a result of this review, a number of licensed drivers and registered vehicle owners across ACT received letters from ACT Policing requesting payment of these [traffic infringement notices]," the spokeswoman said.
"Both the RTA and ACT Policing have now put in place measures to avoid a recurrence of this issue."
The man said the ACT Policing employee was helpful and his fine was eventually waived, but he believed some kind of sunset clause should be built into the infringements.
His anger was echoed by a Canberra small business owner, who was last week forced to pay a speeding fine issued to one of his employees in February 2008 that he's certain he paid at the time.
The man, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he hadn't received a reminder notice and as he no longer had any record of the original payment in his business files he was told the only way to ensure his own licence wasn't suspended was to pay the $900 penalty.
"I'm flabbergasted they would expect you to pull forward a receipt from eight years ago. Who holds a record from 2008?"
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