Adelaide man gets off red-light camera fine because no-one tested cars going through it on red

By Eugene Boisvert

A red light camera sits by the side of the road
The red-light camera was last tested on February 26 but not with cars going through a red light.(File: ABC News)

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  • An Adelaide man has had a red-light camera fine overturned because it was never tested while cars were going through the intersection on a red light.

    David Woolmer has won his appeal in South Australia’s Supreme Court in a similar judgement to one handed down in 2016 that led to a range of speeding fines being overturned.

    Justice Greg Parker found that regulations requiring red-light cameras be tested with cars going through the intersection on a red light had not been followed, rendering Mr Woolmer’s fine and conviction in the Magistrates Court invalid.

    Mr Woolmer had appealed a decision of the lower court that said the regulation could not reasonably have meant that intersections needed to be closed every 28 days to test red-light cameras’ accuracy.

    Signage for Magill Road with traffic driving across the intersection in the background
    The intersection of Portrush and Magill roads is the subject of a controversial $98 million upgrade.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert)

    Mr Woolmer’s white Holden sedan had been photographed turning right against a red arrow at the corner of Magill and Portrush roads in Beulah Park on March 14, 2018.

    He pleaded not guilty to the offence in the Magistrates Court and lost.

    The magistrate found it was “not surprising” that a technician “did not conduct a test taking exposures of a vehicle turning right contrary to a red arrow, given the danger (and illegality) of such a test on one of Adelaide’s busiest intersections, or the disruption that such a test would cause if traffic was stopped in all directions for the test to be conducted”.

    Portrush Road is one of Adelaide’s main freight routes, and the intersection is subject to a controversial $98 million upgrade.

    A car owned by alleged manslaughter victim Ann Marie Smith was seen driving through a red arrow at the intersection even though she could not drive.

    A car with a red square around it going through a red arrow at a major intersection
    Ann Marie Smith’s car going through a red-light arrow at the intersection in January 2017.(Supplied: SA Police)

    Regulations not followed: judge

    Justice Parker found that evidence from the Magistrates Court showed the camera had not been tested in accordance with the regulations.

    “Thus, I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the appellant has provided proof contrary to the facts asserted in the certificate signed by Inspector [Cynthia] Healey under s 79B(10) of the RTA [Road Traffic Act],” he wrote in his judgement handed down last week.

    “I uphold the appeal and quash the finding of the magistrate that the charge against the appellant of breaching Rule 60 of the Australian Road Rules on March 14, 2018, had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

    “I quash the appellant’s conviction.”

    Judgement ‘will affect all unfinalised fines’

    A red light and speed camera warning sign in Adelaide
    Near the intersection of Magill and Portrush roads.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert)

    Law firm Stanley Law, which represented Mr Woolmer, on Tuesday released a statement stating the consequences of the case would be far-reaching.

    “Without any changes by SAPOL, this will affect all unfinalised fines and charges in court,” it said.

    “Accordingly, camera operators are trained to test cameras in a way that does not comply with the regulations.”

    A tree on a busy road as a canvas banner wrapped around it saying save me Steve
    Signs put up by residents against an upgrade to the intersection.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

    Lawyer Karen Stanley said the judgement will not affect finalised matters — such as paid fines or court convictions — because the defendant must take positive steps at the time to challenge them.

    “However, this judgment is clear that the testing requirements have not been complied with on a systemic level,” she said.

    Police Superintendent Bob Gray said police were reviewing the Supreme Court decision, and would “make further commentary on that at a later time”.

    In the 2016 speeding fine case, which was also handled by Ms Stanley, the Supreme Court was found the police’s daily calibration of their speed guns did not meet Australian standards.

    Two years later, South Australian police temporarily stopped using handheld speed detection laser guns, and abandoned 125 prosecutions against drivers.

    Parliament then brought in legislation to reallow their use.


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