The ANU has taken eight students to the ACT Magistrates Court, seeking criminal convictions over unpaid parking infringements. Woroni understands that in total for this round of hearings, 32 individuals and two companies were criminally convicted. It is unclear how many of the eight students were counted in the 32 people criminally convicted – however, at least two students obtained adjournments (a delay until the next round of court hearings) represented by the ANUSA Legal Service.
According to ANU’s Parking Infringements website, students have 28 days from the date they incur a parking infringement to pay the fine or apply for an extension. Extensions can be obtained in cases of financial hardship, allowing students to pay over a longer period of time.
Students may also dispute their liability (that they did not commit the infringement), apply for withdrawal based on extenuating circumstances, such as vehicle breakdown, or apply to waive the infringement based on personal circumstances, such as financial hardship or mental illness. ANU Parking infringement fines have increased as of the 4 July, now ranging in cost from $132 to $700. At the time of court proceedings, most individuals faced parking fines of $125.
Court proceedings are listed as a potential action for the University should “no action be taken by the due date of the reminder notice” for parking infringements. Reminder notices are issued to students with parking infringements if the original due date of a ticket (28 days from the offence) has passed, and the student has not successfully applied for an extension. Once a student is “served” with a reminder notice, at the address the relevant vehicle service has recorded, they have 28 further days to take an action before they are able to be referred to the Magistrates Court. This means in theory, a student could have as little as 60 days between receiving a parking ticket and being taken to court, depending on how long it takes for a reminder notice to be issued.
A criminal conviction poses serious negative consequences. International students will have their visa extensions and applications automatically denied. Many domestic ANU students aim to work in the Australian Public Service, where a conviction is grounds to reject a baseline security clearance. Further, the ANU’s Parking Infringements Guide states that a criminal conviction could lead to the suspension of your licence and registration.
Woroni understands that the process has been traumatic for students, with one alerted by the student union ANUSA just five minutes before their proceedings began. Woroni understands up to five other students were unaware of the summons until the week before their court date, when they were notified by ANUSA, not the ANU. If a student is absent from court on the day of their hearing, they are convicted ex parte – meaning they are found guilty of the offence. In a comment to Woroni, an ANU spokesperson stated “The wellbeing of all ANU students is a top priority, but we also need to ensure parking on campus is accessed fairly and equitably by all.”
Woroni understands that the ANU Parking Office contacts vehicle owners using the address registered to the vehicle, as per the relevant State or Territory government’s records. With many students moving addresses frequently, or registering their vehicles in their home state, it appears that these summons often do not arrive to their intended recipient. An ANU spokesperson stated that “ACT Road Transport legislation provides the framework for parking offences which apply to all parking infringements on campus. Legally a reminder notice must be, and is, sent to the last known residential address of the registered operator of the vehicle involved. If mail is returned to sender, the parking office looks for alternate addresses.”
However, Woroni spoke to one student – who asked to remain anonymous – who confirmed that their car has been registered to their address for more than a year, and they received no communication from the University. Woroni asked the ANU why it was using physical addresses rather than student emails or phone numbers. An ANU spokesperson stated that “ACT Road Transport legislation and ACT Magistrates Court Act require reminder notices and summonses to be sent to the last known residential address of the registered operator of the vehicle. The ACT Magistrates Court requires evidence such as a certificate naming the registered operator. It will not accept ANU records.”
Students are able to apply for the conviction to be overturned, but this is a strenuous process which requires a second appearance at court. It also requires payment of court lodgement fees and professional costs incurred by the ANU, which can total up to an additional $173 on top of repayment of the fine. The ANUSA legal service is available to help students overturn convictions.
Woroni understands that the ANU spent, between court fees and professional services, at least $5,519 taking infringements to court, in order to recover an estimated $4,331 of owed parking fines. This total does not include the cost of legal services to the ANU. This means, according to Woroni’s understanding, the ANU spent at least $1,188 more than the debt owed to take students to court. Ultimately, students who are convicted have to repay the ANU these court and professional services fees. However, the question remains as to why the ANU is dedicating a greater amount of resources on obtaining convictions against students than other avenues to recover debt.
Woroni understands that the next round of hearings pertaining to parking infringements will be on 22 August. Students who are seeking advice on parking infringements may contact the ANU Parking Office at email@example.com or call 6125 0179.
Impacted students can reach out to the ANUSA Community Legal Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6125 2444.
The Legal Aid Youth Law Centre provides walk-in legal assistance to young people aged 12-25, and is open from 10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday at 2 Allsop Street, Canberra City – within walking distance of ANU campus. You can also call the centre at 6173 5410.
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