On the surface, Attorney-General Costas Clerides’ explanation about the waiving of some 3,000 speeding fines seemed logical. He issued his explanation on Thursday, after former Limassol MP Andreas Themistocelous posted on his Facebook page documents showing Clerides had signed the termination of proceedings against the wife of a prominent Nicosia lawyer repeatedly photographed by traffic cameras on Nicosia’s Grivas Dighenis Avenue violating the speed limit.
In the statement he issued subsequently, Clerides said that he had waived 3,082 fines, because when the cameras were activated, on June 2 2014, the speed limit was 50km per hour and hundreds of people were caught exceeding it repeatedly. They were made aware of this, months later, when they received notifications to pay their fines. After receiving countless requests for waiving fines, because many people with multiple violations were at risk of losing their licences, he decided to scrap 3,082 bookings.
In October of that year the speed limit on the road was raised to 65km per hour, people were informed about the traffic cameras and the violations dropped significantly, said Clerides, who also gave a table with the number of violations recorded each month. Whereas in June 2014, there were 14,376 recorded offences, in December of the same year there were only 1,274. The total for the first five months of 2016 was a meagre 2,416. Clerides gave this information to explain the rationale behind his decision and to show that he had not done a favour for the prominent lawyer’s wife.
There is however a broader issue that he failed to address. Of the 14,376 speed limit violations recorded in June 2014, ‘the legal service approved requests for the writing off of a total 3,082 offences’, said Clerides. More than 11,000 offences, however, were not waived and we can only assume that people paid their fines. Does the attorney-general not consider this unfair treatment of the drivers who dutifully paid their fines? If there was fair treatment, the people who paid the fines the legal service decided to waive for some drivers should have been given their money back.
What message is given by the attorney-general’s decision? That people who fulfil their obligations under the law – pay their fines promptly and do not request favours from the state legal service – are complete idiots and that in Cyprus only complete idiots pay fines on time. The smart citizens either apply for favours or wait until the legislature votes for a discount on fines before paying. It is a shame that the attorney-general fully endorsed this behaviour with a decision that penalised citizens who pay their fines on time.