Property owners/managers have the right to contest matters in the Magistrates Court, but it is important to understand the potential consequences. Remember:
- You are electing to take the matter to court, where a Magistrate will make a determination about your guilt or innocence in relation to the offence.
- Offences under the RTRA Act are criminal matters and the rules of evidence apply. Strict rules of procedure also apply (see for example the Justices Act, the Criminal Code, the Penalties and Sentences Act and the Evidence Act).
- During a trial, the prosecution will call witnesses to lead evidence. If you wish to provide evidence to the court, you will need to lead that evidence from witnesses and those witnesses may be cross-examined by the prosecution.
- You are responsible for paying the costs of your own lawyer and any other costs involved with going to court. Should the court rule in favour of the RTA, you will also have the RTA’s costs awarded against you.
- Where the offence is proven, the court may decide to record a criminal conviction.
You are strongly advised to obtain legal advice. If you are certain that you have a defence at law, a written submission can be provided to the RTA, explaining the defence. In some cases, this may result in the Penalty Infringement Notice being withdrawn.
Example of an offence:
The offence of conducting an open house without written permission carries a Penalty Infringement Notice fine for a corporation of $1261.
Options to address the situation once you have received a Penalty Infringement Notice are:
- Pay the fine in full, or
- Contact the RTA to arrange a payment plan, or
- Contest the matter in the Magistrates Court (by completing the RTA notice provided).
If the matter is prosecuted in court, the maximum penalty is $12,610. If the accused is convicted following a trial, an award of costs of $5,000 or more may also be made. The cost for legal representation potentially adds another $5,000 to $10,000 or more.
While the Court may not fine a corporation the maximum amount, defending a charge in the Magistrates Court may still cost $20,000 or more if the defence is unsuccessful.
If in doubt, get legal advice – and remember, these matters are serious.
For more information about your rights and responsibilities, contact the RTA.