Victoria Police rewrite speed rules to show you how to get a warning

Herald Sun

Keith Moor

November 06, 2013

A Victoria Police officer uses a laser to catch speeding motorists. Source: HeraldSun

POLICE today admitted not having made public which speeding motorists are eligible to apply for warnings to get off fines.

Speed camera commissioner Gordon Lewis today criticised the secrecy which has surrounded the police official warning policy surrounding which speeding motorists can get off with warnings instead of fines.
While welcoming the recent decision by police to finally reveal its full policy on which motorists are eligible to apply for warnings, Mr Lewis said it should have been made public years ago.
The Herald Sun today revealed Victoria Police has just rewritten its rules to alert thousands of motorists they are eligible to apply for official warnings.

Its rewritten rules now state motorists caught doing between 10 and 14km/h over the limit can be warned instead of fined if they haven’t been nabbed in the previous three years.
The published force policy previously said only those busted doing less than 10km/h over the limit, and who hadn’t been fined in the previous two years, were eligible to apply for an official warning to escape being fined.
Victoria Police traffic Supt Dean McWhirter denied increasing the number of motorists who can apply for warnings to include those travelling up to 14km/h over the limit was a new policy.
But he agreed it had not previously been published.
“As part of a recent review process to update the information available to the community it was recognised that this aspect of the policy had not been included on the Victoria Police website and appropriately it has now been updated,” Supt McWhirter said.
Mr Lewis today said it just wasn’t good enough that up until October 24 this year the force had only published half of its official warning policy, the bit relating to warnings for people nabbed doing less than 10/kmh over the limit.
“When I first became aware of the additional basis for an official warning on the Victoria Police website, I thought it was a sensible extension to the policy that was already published there,” Mr Lewis told the Herald Sun.
“However, I was surprised that Victoria Police had not issued some press statement in relation to the publication of this additional policy rather than rely on motorists reading its website.
“However, it seems that this recent addition to the Victoria Police website is the best argument yet for total transparency when dealing with the motoring public.
“The publication of this additional basis for granting a warning in lieu of a fine, while claimed to be longstanding police policy, has not been published since I was appointed Road Safety Camera Commissioner in February 2012.
“Its recent publication was the first time my office knew about it.
“Significantly, there is still no reference to it on the Department of Justice website,
“While Victoria Police, in its discretion, can adopt any criteria it wishes in establishing internal policy for substituting a warning for a fine, it should publish its entire policy for motorists to seek a warning instead of being fined.”
Mr Lewis criticised the force for not previously telling thousands of busted motorists they were eligible to apply to have their fines scrapped.
Mr Lewis said it was unsatisfactory that a major part of Victoria Police’s official warning policy for speeding motorists had been kept secret for years.
He was commenting after the Herald Sun alerted him to the recent decision by the force to publicly reveal its full policy for the first time on which motorists can get off with just a warning.
“To apply for an official warning if you are caught travelling between 10 and 14km/h over the limit you have to know such a policy exists,” Mr Lewis said.
“I was not aware such motorists could apply for warnings so it is fair to assume most motorists didn’t know either.
“If Victorians are to have faith in the traffic camera system then it must be transparent.
“Police not telling people for years they were eligible to apply for official warnings instead of fines is unsatisfactory.”
The old public policy – which will continue to apply in addition to the new written rule – allowed 63,907 speeding motorists to avoid fines in the past year.
Making public the availability of warnings to those travelling up to 14km/h over the limit will allow thousands more to wriggle out of speeding fines.
More than 166,000 motorists were fined for exceeding the speed limit by 10 to 14km/h in 2012-13.
Police received 170,000 requests for internal reviews of speeding fines last year, resulting in 51,000 official warnings for offences below 10km/h over the limit and 8400 for motorists nabbed doing between 10 and 14km/h over the limit.
A 2006 Auditor-General’s report recommended that Victoria Police should more widely communicate the availability of official warnings for speeding.
It said doing so would help build community confidence in the speed enforcement program.
Supt McWhirter told the Herald Sun Victoria Police had recently updated information on the Victoria Police website relating to speed camera, traffic, crime and other infringements.
“The website has been updated to provide contemporary advice to the community on their rights and responsibilities when receiving an infringement,” he said.
“One of the updates included publication of the Victoria Police policy position for an official warning for an offence of 10-14km/h over the speed limit.
“The general criteria where an official warning may be issued is:
• Hold a current driver’s licence, including probationary or current learner driver’s permit;
• Have not been issued with a speeding, other traffic infringement or official warning with the previous three (3) years; (Why must it be no less than the past 3 years?)
• Have an alleged speed between 10 and 14 kilometres per hour over the speed limit; and,
• Do not deny that you committed the offence. (What about the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in court?)
“This is not a new policy position. Victoria Police have applied the policy when considering requests for an internal review and have publicly acknowledged the existence of the policy. “However, the policy has not previously been published.
“The Traffic Camera Office receives in excess of 250,000 requests for internal reviews annually and issue approximately 40,000-50,000 official warnings.”