The Ontario government is proposing a controversial new method for challenging traffic tickets.
The Ministry of the Attorney General is considering shifting to an online dispute resolution system that they say would replace the current in-court method, and would call offences “administrative monetary penalties” instead of offences under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.
They also maintain that it would continue to offer a fair process to those who wish to challenge the infractions.
“Should the government move forward with implementing a new system it will honour the protections that the law requires to ensure just and fair outcomes for Ontarians,” Ministry spokesperson Brendan Crawley told GlobalNews.ca.
Crawley says an “impartial decision-maker” would replace courtrooms, thus speeding up the process.
The new system is still in the consultation stage and Crawley says it would “have to withstand the scrutiny of the courts,” likely referring to whether they could legally replace courts and judges with “impartial decision-makers.”
The City of Brampton currently uses a similar system for disputing parking offences with fines of $100 or less.
People who have been served with an administrative monetary penalty have 15 days to pay the charge or dispute it at a “Screening Review” meeting, held by a “Screening Officer” who has the authority to reduce, cancel, or uphold the penalty.
The holder of the penalty then has the opportunity to appeal the decision of the Screening Officer to a Hearing Review meeting. The Hearing Officer’s decision is then final.
The City of Brampton says that while court times for parking tickets could take up to a year to resolve, this new system can see a full appeal through the hearing officer resolved within weeks.
“With [administrative monetary penalties] replacing the current judicial process for appealing parking tickets, valuable court time will be freed up and utilized by our courts to deal with more serious issues,” reads the city’s webpage on the new system.
Ontario seems to be proposing this type of system for traffic offences as well.
Stephen Parker of the Ontario Paralegal Association told GlobalNews.ca that a presumption of innocence (a fundamental right under the constitution) could disappear if this new system is implemented.
“All that would go out the window,” he said. “You would simply have received from the officer or bylaw officer a penalty notice which will indicate an amount of money.”
“You will not have the right to face your accuser as you currently do,” he said.