Hundreds of thousands of dollars in speeding fines, together with people losing their drivers' licences and possibly even their livelihoods through accumulated demerit points, are now exposed to litigation under a landmark court ruling on Friday.
On the back of that ruling in the ACT Magistrates Court, the NRMA again has called for a complete shutdown and audit of speeding fines issued by ACT traffic cameras after Access Canberra's network and infringement-issuing processes were exposed as legally flawed.
The flaw emerged after a shy Braidwood engineer had the tenacity to rail against an "unjust" system, produce a rock solid defence argument, and decisively win his court challenge.
The decision by Magistrate James Lawton for the plaintiff, Dennis Levy, establishes a clear legal precedent and now exposes the ACT government to a raft of future challenges.
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury, who called for the full camera audit when the "systems error" was first admitted by Access Canberra in September last year, said that any traffic camera system should be both flawless in its performance and open to scrutiny in order for the public to have full confidence in it.
"In our view, nothing has changed since last year," he said.
"This development does not instill public confidence in the traffic camera system and is not a good outcome for road safety."
Of the hundreds of motorists who were issued speeding infringements by Access Canberra's automated system, Mr Levy was the only person willing to go to court to fight what he saw a "complete injustice of the system".
The dispute over the validity of the speeding tickets has raged since September last year when it first emerged that the tickets issued by Access Canberra's automated traffic camera system between February 29 and March 13 2020 were issued with incorrect dates as a result of an admitted "systems error".
However, as Friday's court outcome has proved, a so-called "error" kept occurring long after the dates admitted.
Access Canberra claimed that a "systems error" was responsible for a discrepancy between the date stamped on the photograph, and the date on the infringement issued as a result.
The authority claimed that this "error" occurred because the system which automatically processes the infringements had been incorrectly programmed and did not account for the 2020 leap year.
The authority said the error was corrected on March 13 but refused to neither rescind nor reissue the incorrectly issued notices, advising The Canberra Times that "the infringement notices are valid for the purposes of the Road Transport Legislation", and adding that the legal advice it had received to support that assertion was "confidential and will not be provided".
"Motorists can see photographs of their offence online at Access Canberra. Therefore, the infringement notices will not be reissued," the directorate said in a statement.
The directorate's position, and the legal advice obtained at the time, has now been exposed as fundamentally flawed.
Mr Levy's challenge centred around a traffic camera detection on March 16, 2020 - three days after the Access Canberra claimed the fault was fixed - with the camera detecting a vehicle travelling at 92km/h in an 80km/h speed zone.
The infringement notice stated the offence had occurred at the same time and place, but on March 17.
On March 30, Mr Levy disputed the liability via Access Canberra's online system and requested the infringement be withdrawn.
On April 13, the limitation period for issuing an infringement notice, under the Road Transport (Offences) Regulation 2006, expired. Mr Levy disputed the infringement, stating that on the time and date stated on the notice the car was parked and stationary in NSW, some 50km from the cameras.
Mr Levy pleaded not guilty when he was summonsed to appear before the court on September 22, 2020, with a hearing date set of April 13, 2021.
When the case was heard, prosecutor Luke Crocker sought leave to amend the summons to change the date of the offence from 17 March 2020 to 16 March 2020, pursuant to Section 28 of the Magistrates Court Act.
However, Mr Levy argued this was an injustice, with the magistrate reserving his judgement and seeking further submissions from both the defence and the prosecution..
In his judgement handed down on Friday, Magistrate Lawton said that in continuing with the defective notice, "they [the Road Traffic Authority] are effectively forcing the responsible person to face prosecution or pay an infringement notice for an offence that did not occur as alleged in the notice".
He said the authority had the clear opportunity to fix the issue "but for some inexplicable reason it was not corrected".
Mr Levy said he was relieved at the outcome but was emotionally and physically exhausted by the process and other issues that were affecting his life.
"People should know about this [outcome] and if they wished to appeal, there is [now] a precedent," he said.
"This [outcome] shows an incompetence within government to allow this to happen. They [the government] backed the wrong horse. Instead of apologising and reissuing the notices, they flogged the horse thinking they were going to win anyway."