3/20/2010Italy: Supreme Court Rules Against Private Traffic Camera Contracts
Automated enforcement shut down in Messina, Italy after the Supreme Court of Cassation rules per-ticket contracts illegal.
Per-ticket contracts between municipalities and private, for-profit speed camera companies violate Italian law, the Supreme Court of Cassation ruled Wednesday. The court struck down an automated speeding citation on the grounds that the ticketing operation had been outsourced to a private firm. In Messina, the company Vecar Srl was responsible for measuring the speed of vehicles, maintaining calibration of the camera equipment and determining guilt. The court was troubled by this delegation of authority.
"The investigation of traffic violations... constitutes a service of traffic police that cannot be delegated to a third party," the high court ruled. "The device used for this measurement must be directly managed by traffic police and must be in their control."
As in the US, private companies in Italy have operated the cameras in return for compensation based on the number of citations issued. In Messina, for example, Vecar managed the devices in return for 23.45 euros (US $31.72) from each ticket issued. This form of compensation was found to be illegal.
"Speed cameras have a preventive rather than punitive purpose or one financed by the public for private financial gain," the court ruled. "Therefore to determine the cost of equipment rental based on the amounts of fines is contrary to the constitutional principles of proper conduct and the impartiality of the public administration."
In response to the ruling, the municipality of Messina yesterday suspended all of its red light cameras and speed cameras because its contract failed to meet the court's requirement that the payment be a fixed amount determined before the issuance of any tickets.
Italy's high court has been hostile to automated enforcement, ruling nearly one year ago that red light cameras violated fundamental legal rights. Law enforcement agencies have been equally hostile. Last August, the carabinieri -- a national police force -- conducted the third in a series of raids on red light camera manufacturers and local officials. The Guardia di Finanza last June had raided a speed camera maker in Brescia over the issue of cloned serial numbers. In January 2009, the carabinieri arrested red light camera maker Stefano Arrighetti and seized automated ticketing machines from 54 municipalities that used the "T-Red" brand of intersection camera on charges of contract irregularities and the shortening of yellow light timing at intersection. Interior Minister Roberto Maroni issued a decree on August 14, 2009 banning private photo enforcement contracts (view decree).
A copy of the order shutting down traffic cameras in Messina is available (in Italian) in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.