A three-year battle for a Whangārei woman over an $80 ticket which was sent to the wrong address has led to police changing how the policy is applied when an address is recorded incorrectly.

Shannon Parker, of the New Zealand Police Conduct Association (NZPCA) based in Whangārei, is more used to assisting people with their issues around police processes and interactions but found herself having to defend herself and push for change.

In 2016, police changed their ticketing process from issuing infringement notices on the roadside to posting them out on a later date. Three years on, it's a flawed part of that process that has been deemed unlawful.

Last week the Independent Police Conduct Authority advised NZPCA the previous police practice was unlawful, and the process had been changed.

Advertisement

Parker is thankful no one else will fall victim but said it had been a battle to get police to acknowledge there was a problem.

"I am really disappointed with how Police Infringement Bureau have handled this ... I am astounded that the Office of the Police Commissioner let this continue as they were alerted to it in the early stages," Parker said.

"New Zealanders should be able to have trust and confidence that our police are acting professionally and within the law. Unfortunately they are not always doing either, as clearly demonstrated in this case."

The drama began in April 2016 when Parker was stopped in Auckland by an officer who spotted her talking on her cellphone. Parker admitted to the officer at the time she had been caught, but when no ticket arrived in her mail box she believed she had been given a warning.

Police have changed part of the policy for issuing tickets after a three-year battle by a Whangārei woman.
Police have changed part of the policy for issuing tickets after a three-year battle by a Whangārei woman.

Instead, unknown to her the ticket had been delivered to her previous address in Kensington. But that was also a mystery as Parker told the officer who stopped her in Auckland her current address which matched the one he had in the police system.

Parker only became aware of the ticket in October 2016 when she was contacted by her employer advising her the Ministry of Justice had contacted it over an unpaid fine for her.

In February Parker raised the issue with the Police Commissioner and in March she lodged a notice to the courts.

When questioned about what happened if a ticket was sent to the wrong address, police said they still considered the ticket to have been served. Parker applied for paperwork relating to her complaint and an internal email from an officer at the Police National Headquarters in Wellington was released.

The email, which had the officer's name redacted, said: "It is my view that despite the allegation of a traffic offence (use of a mobile phone while driving) police has been unreasonable in its processing of the matter.

"Accordingly I have decided to direct the Police Infringement Bureau to waive the ION in this instance as our integrity is at stake in my view. A letter is being drafted for Ms Parker to explain the decision."

The officer also said there were "clearly learnings to be taken from this matter which I am keen to explore through a debrief".

In November 2018 Parker convinced the Independent Police Complaints Authority she was correct about the issue and police sought legal advice.

In a written statement yesterday a police spokesperson confirmed while the Police Infringement Bureau policy in relation to infringement notices had not changed, there had been an amendment to how the policy was applied on occasions where an address was accidentally recorded incorrectly.

"We have been in discussion with the IPCA about the specific concern raised when an address is incorrectly recorded by police," the statement said.

"When police is made aware of an address being accidentally recorded incorrectly, the notice may now be waived or reissued depending on the circumstances, rather than a reminder notice being issued. This updated approach is in the process of being implemented."

However, if an incorrect address was intentionally given to an officer investigations would begin.

Anyone wishing to query an infringement notice is able to do so - information on how to do this can be found at: https://www.police.govt.nz/about-us/infringement-services/about-infringement-services