Prime Minister and Police Minister Mark Brown has weighed in on the handling of minor traffic infringement notices, labelling the process “bizarre”.
Cook Islands News pressed him with a series of questions at a weekly face to face conference on Wednesday.
“It doesn’t make sense to me, how can you be convicted for a $20 fine?
“It just sounds kind of weird that the police and the courts are conspiring to convict Cook Islanders, it doesn’t make sense to me,” PM Brown said.
The Prime Minister said he was up to date with claims high profile Cook Islands lawyer Mark Short was told by Police Commissioner James Keenan he is reviewing all areas of policing following concerns about the handling of minor traffic infringements.
Police media remain largely silent following concerns traffic infringements totalled 290 in December – a record number of motorists hit with infringements.
While police spokesman Trevor Pitt has pointed out law enforcement is the core duty of police, he has said laws and regulations are made by the executive branch of government and unfairness is an issue for legislators.
Nearly 75 per cent of drivers fined in December were under the age of 40 and dozens have appeared in court recently charged with failing to pay them.
The most common minor offence – 76 per cent of the total number of fines was driving without a warrant of fitness (WOF).
They were handed $20 fines and told to pay them in seven days or face court action – while no evidence was required of a renewed warrant of fitness upon payment of the fine.
After explaining the situation to him, PM Brown said he found the matter “bizarre”.
“It doesn’t make sense at all. The courts are actually carrying this out?”
Short, in a written statement to Cook Islands News last week, said an unacceptable number of young people were ending up with convictions as a result of the ticketing process.
Nineteen people were called into court at Avarua for failure to pay a fine on Thursday last week.
On Monday, Pitt said there would not be any substantive response from police about the matter.
PM Brown said: “I guess we will have to have a conversation with the courts and police to find out why this sudden push to convict people for $20 outstanding fines.”
“I’m sure the courts have their hands full with other things, other than having to chase up 20 bucks from people, that’s ridiculous.
“I find it bizarre; the courts have a huge backlog in front of them on other matters.”