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  • State warned on myki fines
  • By Cameron Houston
  • 08/12/2013 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: PeterMac ( 2 articles in 2013 )
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Fines issued under Victoria's myki system have never been contested in court, amid claims the government has been forced to waive infringement notices because the troubled technology cannot withstand legal scrutiny.

The Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure has been warned by staff that a successful legal challenge could undermine the integrity of the $1.5 billion ticketing system, which has operated for more than three years.

A former contractor said he provided the department with verbal and written advice that false readings, administrative errors and poor calibration of machines would damage the chances of a prosecution in court.

"They [the transport department] don't want it to be tested in court, they just want the revenue. They need to prove beyond reasonable doubt and they simply can't. I know of several cases where people have challenged infringement notices on the basis of faulty technology, but the prosecution has withdrawn the fines," the source said. "As a prosecutor, you have an ethical duty to the court and I would regularly explain to them that this system won't stand up to scrutiny."

Another former employee of the department said concerns about the prosecution of myki fines in court had influenced a recent plan by Public Transport Victoria to give fare evaders the option of cheaper on-the-spot fines. Due to be introduced next year, the proposal would allow commuters without a valid ticket to accept liability immediately and pay a lesser $75 fine with cash or a credit card, rather than the full infringement of $212.

"[Minister for Public Transport Terry] Mulder said it will make enforcement easier and raise more money, but there'll be huge problems with people paying with EFTPOS and cash.

How is this possibly going to speed things up? It's more about avoiding court," the source said.

A transport department spokeswoman said the proposed fine system would provide a "lower cost way of recouping money that can be invested in Victoria's transport network".

The spokeswoman confirmed that fines issued under myki technology had never reached a contested hearing but said challenges could take up to two years before proceeding to court. "The department has never received advice that has made it doubt its ability to successfully prosecute myki ticketing offences. There is a robust and detailed legislative framework in place to assist with the prosecution of myki-related offences," she said.

She said a small number of fines had been withdrawn because of problems with myki machines, but denied any "noticeable rise" from the former Metcard system.

But according to the department's own figures, the number of fines withdrawn in the 2012/13 financial year increased sharply, from 17,659 to 21,271, with infringement notices for fare evaders soaring by more than 40 per cent over the past three years.

Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said any ticketing system must be enforceable in court, but the technology of the myki system made it more vulnerable to legal challenges.

"Back with the old system, every paper ticket had a date and a time when it expired and you could establish within seconds if it was valid or not. When you go to smart cards, you have to use a machine to query whether it's valid, and the fact it's a device for storing credit raises a range of technical questions," Mr Morton said.

Myki's operator, Japanese-owned consortium Kamco, would not respond to requests for comment and directed Fairfax Media to Public Transport Victoria.

A PTV spokesman said all inquiries regarding "infringements and associated processes" had to be dealt with by the DTPLI, which referred the request back to PTV.

A spokeswoman for Mr Mulder did not respond to questions regarding the embattled myki system, which was introduced by the former Labor government.

"The majority of honest fare-paying commuters are sick of freeloaders who don't pay their way. Fare evasion robs Victorians of around $60 million each year," the spokeswoman said.

The cost of the ticketing system has more than trebled from the original contract price of $494 million in 2005.

The Coalition commissioned a "warts and all" review of myki in December 2010, and decided to retain the system, but refused to release the Deloitte report.


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