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New road fines are ‘illegal’

Published on 26/11/2004

26 November 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgium’s tough new fines for traffic offences breach the country’s constitution, it was reported on Friday.

In March, the government decided to increase the penalties for road offences by reclassifying many previously ‘minor’ breaches as more serious offences.

The move was controversial and some politicians and drivers have been fighting it ever since.

This week, two judges at Belgium’s Arbitration Court handed them a moral victory.

The court concluded on Tuesday that the upgrading of some traffic offences was breaching Belgium’s constitution.

The judges said the constitution guarantees the Belgian citizen that any punishment handed out is done only in accordance with crimes and penalties, which have been debated by the federal parliament.

The judges said government ministers did have delegated powers to stiffen penalties, but in the case of the traffic fines they had overstepped the mark.

The judgement could mean the March law will have to be suspended, but legal experts say that probably won’t happen before the middle of next year.

Before then, Belgian Transport Minister Renaat Landuyt could introduce a “corrective” law into the parliament.

In any case, those who have already paid a hefty amount because of the new law won’t be reimbursed – however ‘illegal’ the fine.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news