A Greek Australian man claims he has been convicted and fined by stealth by the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court, over a traffic infringement that had previously been withdrawn.
In September 2009 Spiros Chryssanthakopoulos was pulled over and fined for allegedly travelling in the transit lane of Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway, without a passenger. After his objection to the ticket and his alleged improper treatment by the issuing officer, a Police Ethical Standards Department investigation resulted in the infringement being reissued in March 2010, which should have resulted in the first notice being withdrawn. Again Mr Chryssanthakopoulos filed an objection and the second ticket was ultimately withdrawn by the Traffic Camera Office.
However, Mr Chryssanthakopoulos claims that a Victoria Police administrative error led to the initial infringement not being withdrawn and proceeding through the courts, resulting in his conviction and a $250 fine for an alleged offence that he believed had been quashed. “When you have two notices running concurrently for the same offence, this is completely unacceptable. How many notices can you have for one offence, for the same offence? Police should have followed procedures. When you reissue something the first thing becomes obsolete, becomes superseded, becomes void,” Mr Chryssanthakopoulos told Neos Kosmos.
Due to his failure to appear in the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court in April 2010 – a date that Mr Chryssanthakopoulos believed had been nullified by the withdrawal of both notices – police lodged an application for an ex parte hearing, which was granted and took place in December.
Magistrate Jack Vandersteen found the absent Mr Chryssanthakopoulos guilty and ordered him to pay penalties and statutory costs totalling almost $300. He received the notice shortly before Christmas. “I couldn’t believe it. I was humiliated, infuriated and very, very disgusted with the legal system as a whole,” Mr Chryssanthakopoulos said. He was further shocked to learn of what he calls a case of racial vilification in the Magistrate’s Court. He claims that the court clerk’s inability to pronounce his ethnic surname and Magistrate Jack Vandersteen’s reaction resulted in laughter and ridicule in the court.
According to the court transcript and audio recording, the clerk can be heard calling the case and mispronouncing Mr Chryssanthakopoulos’ name “Chryssanthakopoulopoulos”, after which laughter can be heard. Magistrate Vandersteen responded, “he would have been a hard name to recite 25 times, there’s 19 letters in it”.
“This compounded everything. It’s not easy to swallow when someone is mocking your name in the courtroom,” Mr Chryssanthakopoulos said. In subsequent correspondence, dated March 18, Chief Magistrate Ian Gray said, “I am sure I speak for Magistrate Vandersteen in saying that if any offence was caused, then it is sincerely regretted.”
To further compound the issue, Mr Chryssanthakopoulos has claimed further problems when six demerit points were debited from his licence. The demerit points were ultimately re-credited and an apology made by Victoria Police on behalf of Civic Compliance, the Justice Department and VicRoads.
Mr Chryssanthakopoulos has successfully applied to have the transit lane matter reheard in the Magistrate’s Court next month.