Beating Myki fines in court
Most of the myki fines contested in court have been withdrawn or dismissed, amid claims the government department responsible for the problem-plagued technology is deliberately avoiding legal scrutiny.
Since the system was introduced, 109 challenges to infringement notices have been heard in the Melbourne Magistrates Court, and only six people who turned up to court were fined. Another 17 who did not attend were fined.
Altogether 71 cases were dismissed or withdrawn, while 15 cases were adjourned. And that, according to figures obtained by Fairfax Media, is even though about 80 per cent pleaded guilty.
Fairfax Media revealed last December that the Department of Transport had received written and verbal advice that false myki readings, administrative errors and poor calibration would damage the chances of a prosecution in court.
In August, the department withdrew an infringement notice against a Brighton woman and agreed to pay $383 in costs just two days before she was to challenge the ticketing system in court.
"The department is not, and will not be, in possession of any service records for any devices owned or operated by Public Transport Victoria or Metro Trains," said department prosecutor Joe Connolly in a letter on February 5.
Mr Connolly did not indicate where the information could be accessed.
Andy Schmulow, a senior research associate at Melbourne University's School of Law, had "virtually begged" the department to issue him a court summons after he was fined on a Melbourne tram despite topping up his myki account a day earlier. But the department would not take him to court.
Mr Schmulow was told by a department prosecutor that a failure to present a valid tram ticket was a crime of "absolute liability" and he had no basis for an appeal.
Mr Schmulow accused the department of "bluffing" public transport users. "They know there are such serious defects either in the legislation or in the technology and the myki system, that if it appears a passenger is willing to challenge the infringement, then the department might as well fold.
"Is this the reason why the department gave passengers the option to pay a $75 on-the-spot fine? Is this part of the bluff?"
A Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure spokeswoman said it was "ludicrous" to suggest there were any enforcement problems with myki.
"There is a robust legislative framework in place to deal with ticketing offences and the department successfully prosecutes over 6000 ticketing matters annually," she said.
The spokeswoman insisted that contested hearings had proceeded to the Magistrates Court, but would not say how many.
But this appears to be contradicted by a statement from the Magistrates Court. "In the Magistrates Court, a contested criminal hearing is a hearing where the accused pleads not guilty. Of the 109 cases that resulted from the data request, none proceeded to the plea of not guilty hearing type," the court spokeswoman said.
Another department spokeswoman later said these cases were "not reflective of the ticketing matters prosecuted annually by the department".
Court data revealed that most people pleaded guilty and a majority had their fines wiped. People who failed to attend court usually had fines upheld.
Fairfax Media observed a man who claimed he was in a rush and did not have time to touch on have his infringement notice dismissed by a judicial registrar.
Public Transport Users Association president Tony Morton said many people were discouraged from challenging fines because of the cost and inconvenience.
"Public Transport Victoria is keen to avoid having to contest cases in court and in a lot of cases it's succeeding," he said.
Ryan Heath was hired by a government subcontractor to teach Melbourne commuters to use the system in 2012. Mr Heath was fined for not having a valid ticket while trying to teach others to use the system at Melbourne Central in January 2013. His problem was that he had touched on to a machine that was offline.
"I'm there trying to help myki with all these problems and I'm getting fined. The whole thing was ridiculous," he said.
Mr Heath said supervisors were often confused about how the system worked and he frequently saw people fined after they had asked for help.
Like many other cases, Mr Ryan's matter was found proven but dismissed without penalty or conviction.
RMIT researcher Adrian Dyer is determined to challenge the system after pleading not guilty to failing to produce a valid ticket at Mount Waverley Station.
Dr Dyer showed Fairfax Media a note signed by a Metro Trains officer at his local station, which states: "When I visually inspected the Myki readers with him, indeed it was hard to read the screen."
There was no way for somebody to know whether they had effectively swiped on the morning he was fined, Dr Dyer said, adding that he always had funds on his card and had been using the system without incident for more than a year.
"I'm not pleading guilty because I haven't done anything wrong," he said.
MYKI HORROR STORIESLEIGH MAHONEY, 43, Murrumbeena
"I have worked in the financial industry for 27 years and I have to sign a declaration each year to confirm I haven't been convicted or charged with any dishonesty offences. When they ran an advertising campaign that compared fare evasion to stealing it was not something I could wear," Mr Mahoney said.
In court, Mr Mahoney had four defence arguments, including anomalies in the Victorian Fares and Ticketing Manual and concerns about the accuracy and maintenance of the myki system.
"I wanted evidence on calibration around their readers. I wanted to know what standards they are calibrated to and how often they are tested. I had video evidence of scanners at Hughesdale not working, regardless of how many times you touched on," Mr Mahoney said.
The Magistrate struck out the charges in February.
"These cases block up days and days in the justice system. You've got magistrates sorting out bullshit fines, when this money should be spent fixing the system," he said.
NICK SEIDENMAN, 57, Tecoma
After feeling confident he had touched on with his myki card at Upwey station, Nick Seidenman was slapped with an infringement notice at Melbourne Central when the gates failed to open.
"I said: 'I want to go to court with this'. I know I'd topped up my card and swiped on. The machine was right there and I got the beep and saw the flash," Mr Seidenman said.
He said he had previously reported vandalism and faults with myki readers to Metro officers, but the complaints were often met with indifference.
"I'm a software engineer and I know a bit about the protocols involved with this technology. I was confident that if I requested the source code I could have identified a flaw in the system. I think they know it's flawed. Mine [infringement notice] was withdrawn when I raised these concerns," Mr Seidenman he said.
Mr Seidenman urged other public transport users to dispute their fines in court when they believe myki technology has failed.
"Be polite, take your infringement notice and challenge it in court. You'll win," Mr Seidenham said.
MARK WIEMELS, 41, Flemington
Mr Wiemels was issued with a $217 fine after he thought he'd swiped on at Newmarket station. He said he had video evidence that proved a myki reader at the station was often faulty.
"I went to court and pleaded not guilty to begin with, but then I witnessed several cases before me. The judge and the prosecutor were in total lock-step and everyone who pleaded guilty had their fines waived."
"There was a guy who said he was running late for the train and was going to miss something and admitted he didn't have time to validate. Even he got off. So I just pleaded guilty and they wiped the fine. The whole thing was a farce, it was complete nonsense," Mr Wiemels said.
theage.com.au 14 Sep 2104
To be even more specific:
Note that the Victorian Infringements Court is not a constitutionally recognised court, as it is a computer.
Imperial Acts Application Act 1980 – SECT 8
PART II TRANSCRIBED ENACTMENTS Transcribed enactments 8. Transcribed enactments  I William and Mary Sess. II (Bill of Rights) c. II 12. That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction, are illegal and void.Legislation source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_act/iaaa1980240/s8.html
See also the Port of Portland v State of Victoria High Court case, where WA Attorney General confirmed the Bill of Rights, on page 5. Whereas all 7 justices confirmed the Bill of Rights Act (1688), and Victoria’s Imperial Act Application Act (1980) on page 6 paragraph 13.
Port of Portland Pty Ltd v Victoria  HCA 44 (8 December 2010)
Also regarding any forfeiture of property refer to Attorney-General [NT] v Emmerson  HCA 13 (10 April 2014), drug case, where only a court of competent jurisdiction can forfeit property.