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A florist delivery driver who copped a $60 traffic ticket has given Christchurch City Council a major headache by successfully challenging the legal basis of its enforcement of broken yellow lines parking offences.
A ruling by Justice John Wild in the High Court at Christchurch may mean that thousands of infringement fines paid by motorists were imposed illegally.
It will certainly mean the city council will have to pass a flurry of resolutions to legally authorise broken yellow lines which have been in place for decades.
Timothy Gibson today drove his delivery van through the legal loophole when he appealed against the $60 parking fine in the High Court, with his friend and lawyer Gerald Lascelles arguing the case.
Mr Gibson was given the ticket when he made a delivery to a florist on the corner of Holmwood Road and Rossall Street, in suburban Fendalton.
The parking warden observed his car parked there for two minutes. She said it was parked in a P-10 zone, but "was just a wee bit over the broken yellow line".
When the case went before the JPs in Christchurch District Court, Mr Lascelles argued that the council had to prove it had legal authority to paint the lines there.
He expected it to produce a record of a motion passed by the council authorising the yellow lines.
The council could not find one. The area was previously within the Waimairi County and District, before it amalgamated to become part of Christchurch City.
The JPs noted that the lines had been professionally painted and accepted evidence from the council that they had been there for a long time. They said the lines had "probably" been authorised.
But Mr Lascelles said parking offences carried a criminal standard of proof, and the JPs had used the civil standard. In criminal trials, matters had to be proved "beyond reasonable doubt" for a successful prosecution.
Counsel for the city council, Barnaby Hawes, said there were many ways the lines could have been put in place by the controlling authority.
Traffic engineers in those times had delegated authority to put in 20m of broken yellow lines at this type of intersection.
"There may be no order."
He acknowledged that Mr Lascelles had given the council plenty of advance notice of the issue. The council had searched its records, but no authorisation could be found.
"This was a pretty tough ticket," said Justice Wild.
"I accept at once this is a very minor matter, but the principle is major," said Mr Lascelles.
"It will be a sad day when the prosecution can come along without a scintilla of proof and can sheet home a penalty against a citizen of the city."
Justice Wild accepted that the JPs had applied the wrong standard of proof.
" The Justices needed to be sure that the controlling authority had marked the broken yellow lines on which the appellant's vehicle was partly parked.
"They didn't apply that standard of proof. If they had, I doubt that they could have been satisfied."
He set aside the $60 fine and court costs.
"A major forensic victory Mr Lascelles," he commented as the hearing ended after 45 minutes.