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Saturday, July 2, 2022
Town to remove Ontario Courts from bylaw ticketing system

The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is planning to bypass the Ontario court system to deal with non-parking related bylaw infractions.

The new system, the Non-parking Administrative Monetary Penalty System, referred to by staff as AMPS, will see the final decisions on bylaw fines removed from the Ontario Court of Justice and overseen by a contracted legal professional in Thorold.

If residents take issue with the decision of the hearing officer, they can still take the matter to court.

“It gets rid of a lot of red tape and it cuts out having to go to the provincial courts,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero told The Lake Report.

Under the old system, if someone received a bylaw fine they wanted to challenge it would proceed to the Ontario Court of Justice, said Craig Larmour, director of community and development services.

Judicial trials for fines can “take months, and currently years because of the impact of the pandemic on the court systems,” Larmour told councillors in a committee of the whole planning meeting on June 7.

The delays also cost the town money.

“There’s costs associated with legal representation. And those are not supported by proportional increases in the fines and charges that are issued by the court. So, we’re continually falling further and further behind,” Larmour said.

In using the courts, the town splits ticket revenue in half with the region. With the new system that revenue stays with the town.

The system is already in place for parking-related offences. Councillors saw it as a natural transition for other bylaw-related offences.

“It almost seems too good to be true,” Coun. Clare Cameron said.

Residents can dispute their ticket with a screening officer who works for the town. If the screening officer reaffirms the charge, the resident can challenge the ticket again. This time it goes to a hearing officer who works in Thorold and is contracted by the town.

Disero said she understands some residents might be concerned that the process is not fair if it does not go through the court system.

“It’s going to be a fair system because it’s not going to be something that the town will be adjudicating on. It will be someone who knows about bylaws and is unbiased in their thinking,” she said.

Since implementing this system with parking offences and applying an appeal fee to challenge a ticket, the monthly number of screenings the town deals with has dropped to two from 30, Larmour said.

The plan goes to council for final approval on June 21.