On the 17th of November 2017 I attended the Brisbane magistrates court to contest a fine for parking in front of my own house without a permit.
I arrived at 8.50 am and about an hour later was relocated from court 18 to court 34. Magistrate Daley was there to preside over 2 fines being pursued by Brisbane City council, ably represented by Kevin Cartledge.
Mr Cartledge had just given me a picture, I presume as evidence, of the sign at the entrance to the Clem tunnel that was supposed to inform me of the parking restrictions in front of my house, approximately one kilometre away. Unfortunately the sign didn't have the restrictions posted on them at the time the picture had been taken. I pointed this out to Mr Cartledge and he said there were other signs located around the city. I also pointed out that I had actually ended up on the Clem tunnel instead of continuing down Ipswich road, because of lane confusion. I asked if it was appropriate to have a sign located where people new to the city were trying to work out which road they were on. He re-iterated that there were other signs around the city. I didn't point out that in 2 years I have yet to spot the sign coming from the returning journey along Story Bridge let alone take in the complex instructions at a glance.
I started to wonder to myself of the effects of giving other information in this manner. Picturing two people standing in front of the water cooler discussing young Johnson. Why is he still turning up to work? Doesn't he know he's been let go? Hasn't he seen the signs around the city?
When Magistrate Daley came in the first thing she did was warn the two contestants of the possible costs we could incur while not being able to claim any ourselves.
I waived my right to go first as the other contestant said his witness had pressing engagements. I sat and watched the saga of whether or not a particular lane was a road or a private driveway, and therefore allowing Council to govern. I won't go into the details but as I said to Mr Cartledge much later: at least he had a sign to warn him.
The complexity of the case, and perhaps Mr Cartledge's contested evidence, sent the Magistrate to lunch and she did not return. Mr Cartledge continued in my ear about the futility of my case and informed me that the courts could in fact increase the fine by tenfold, making it another two thousand dollars. The original fine was ninety dollars but I didn't argue with his maths as we were actually getting somewhere in my investigation.
We were told to go for lunch while they tried to arrange another magistrate. I arrived in the mall only to be called back, this time to court 33. When I arrived at the courts again I was told there was another delay and the magistrate wouldn't be available until 2pm. This allowed Mr Cartledge further time in my ear. He told me he had listened to a recording of the conversation I had made complaint about and thought the operator had acted well. I replied I didn't think calling me a liar was acting well. He denied she called me a liar. I replied I had greater clarity in my own experiences than he imagined. At any rate, before I finally hung up on her, I went into great detail as to why I would not have ignored the notice. I suggest he listen to it again. I make no apologies for talking over the top of someone calling me a liar and dismissing my rights to be informed. At any rate he relented on this issue. Finally I asked him what he was offering. He said if I changed my plea he would waive his costs and I would only cop the original fine.
I have to admit at this stage I was warming to Mr Cartledge on a personal level if not a professional one. The system is obviously set in place to serve his needs and I was not going to be returning if the matter was delayed to another day. My doctor and I both agreed that this experience was doing harm to my condition and I had a letter stating that effectively. Mr Cartledge said the court would not be interested in that. (I strongly suggest disability law should be). Despite the fact that his own evidence acted in my favour I got the feeling the change of magistrate pleased him.
At any rate, I agreed to his terms on the basis that I would be able to go through the details of the events with the magistrate.
I went and had some lunch at a very nice hotel called the Trans (Transcontinental). The staff were extremely helpful in understanding I had a hot court date and very little time. I did have time for two pints though.
I returned to court 33 and at about 2.30pm Magistrate Maloney came in. He was informed of my change of plea and he asked if I had been in any way coerced in this decision? What could I say? In that hesitation I considered the greater truths. My health is paramount. I answered no I had not been coerced and told my first and only lie throughout this journey. I then went through the events as they happened. "I attempted to find out any obligations from Motor registration and couldn't. As I told Mr Cartledge I did not even know that Councils issued the permits, always assuming that Motor registrations did. I had my licence transferred to the address of the fine issued and the car registered to that same address before driving, obviously. Magistrate Maloney shook his head when he learned the fine was for my own residence. I informed him of the missing expiation notice and the fact it was now a police matter. I informed him of Councils failure to advise me of the fine even upon the event of the letter disqualifying the fine I did receive and the particulars of the permit I was already displaying. I informed him I only found out about the fine through the overdue notice which now had an overdue amount removed from it.
Magistrate Maloney upheld the ninety dollar fine and gave me a month to pay. He told me I would receive confirmation in the mail. Mr Cartledge shook my hand and told me to make sure the permit was displayed in the future. Surely he was jesting. I have never once forgotten my obligations once informed of them.
I test 99 percentile literacy and numeracy. I have 12 years experience in a professional driving position. Most importantly I had lived at the address for nine months before purchasing the vehicle. And yet I was still unaware of the parking restrictions in front of my own house.
What chance does a visitor to this city have Mr Quirk?
It is now ten days later and I am still considering my next move. The legislation should be amended and the Council made accountable to all. At the very least people registering a vehicle to any address in any such area (as the Gabba traffic area) should be informed.
In a final note I have still not received my notice to pay and have started to wonder what happens if I don't receive it. I didn't get the original expiation notice and here we are. But leave no doubt I would receive a reminder notice.