Driver loses licence points after moving for ambulance

By Paul McInerney
Updated November 5 2012 - 7:30am, first published September 9 2008 - 1:34am
Mr Charlston shows the notice that cost three licence points - despite having the case dismissed in court.

When Geoff Charlston saw the ambulance bearing down from behind with all lights and sirens blazing he did what every NSW motorist must do by law - he carefully pulled over.He and a number of other motorists sitting at the Princes Hwy lights at Figtree in March last year were forced to roll through the red light to give the speeding ambulance clear passage on its mercy mission.Their good intentions were clearly captured on the intersection's red light camera.The Cordeaux Heights businessman thought nothing more of the incident until a red light camera infringement notice arrived in his letterbox a few weeks later."I was surprised, then really angry they had issued an infringement notice when all I was doing was complying with the law and getting out of the way of an emergency vehicle," Mr Charlston said yesterday.He then did what countless thousands of other motorists have done before him, he decided to plead guilty in the Local Court confident that the learned magistrate would see common sense and dismiss the charge.The magistrate accepted his guilty plea, dismissed the charge and waived the $308 fine, but Mr Charlston was shocked to learn the Roads and Traffic Authority was far less accommodating.When it insisted on deducting three precious demerit points from his licence, he furiously wrote away to the State Debt Recovery Office seeking leniency, backed by written confirmation from the NSW Ambulance Service that one of their ambulances had run through the red light at 11.26am that day."I was shocked when they knocked me back because I thought the courts had the last say on these things," Mr Charlston said.Not so, said an RTA spokesperson: "This happens a lot, but we must follow the letter of the law. People in this circumstance should be aware that if the court finds the person guilty, or they plead guilty and the court chooses to waive the penalties associated with the conviction, demerit points still apply." The rub for Mr Charlston is that had he decided to seek leniency before entering a guilty plea he may have had the infringement notice withdrawn entirely."Anyone who believes they have been unfairly issued with an infringement notice can write to the State Debt Recovery Office to have their case reviewed, the spokesperson said."Should this be unsuccessful, they can then elect to have the matter heard in court.""Now they tell me," groaned Mr Charlston.

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