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Driver's excuse for $644 parking fine is 'not good enough'

Although the fine was later reduced to a caution, the Sydney woman was less than impressed. But not everyone agrees with her.

A woman who was slapped with a whopping $644 fine for parking in a disabled spot has unleashed over the penalty, claiming she was forced to leave her car there in an emergency, but a disability advocate has hit back saying her excuse isn't "good enough".

Sydneysider Kate Meller lashed the "grotesque" fine and said she had no other option but to park in the disability bay as her friend had just gone into labour, which required the woman's husband to be present and left their two-year-old at home needing care.

Meller said after she got the urgent call last month, she drove to her friend's home in Randwick, in the city's east, but saw no available parking spaces. She said she then pulled up into a free spot reserved for those with disabilities, copped the fine at approximately 3.45pm, with her friend's baby being born some four hours later.

Left is a white car parked in a disability spot. Sydney woman Kate Meller, who received the fine, is pictured right.
Sydney woman Kate Meller was slapped with a $644 fine for parking in a spot reserved for those with disabilities. Source: TikTok / The Daily Telegraph

Sydney woman slams 'grotesque' fine

When Meller attempted to contest it, she said she was rejected by Revenue NSW.

"I had to help my friend. She needed care for her son," Meller told The Daily Telegraph. "I was in crisis mode. It was a safe spot. That fine is more than twice as much as a no stopping zone. I was shocked by the amount — it’s grotesque."

After "advocacy from Telegraph", Meller's fine was eventually revoked and reduced to a caution.

While she claimed she was left with no other option but to park in the space, some people online held a different view, and according to one disability advocate, Meller could've done better.

Disability advocate says excuse 'not good enough'

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, disability advocate and wheelchair user James Wood branded the move "not cool".

"People need to understand the reason for those car spaces is that someone with a disability parking permit can't walk or push a wheelchair long distances," he told Yahoo. "If I had to visit the place where she was parked and couldn't find a spot, then saw her there I would have said something.

"If she gave the excuse that her friend was in labour I'd have told her 'not good enough'."

James Wood pictured on his wheelchair, left, and right holding up a brochure.
James Wood, 58, has been a wheelchair user for over 30 years. Source: Supplied

On the other hand, Wood said, if there was a genuine medical emergency at play, then he might have considered the park acceptable.

"If it's a genuine medical issue I'm actually OK for them to park in a wheelchair spot, I mean if someone was having a baby, heart attack, or any other serious medical condition then the priority is for the health and safety of the person," he said.

"The ones I get a bit annoyed with are those who don't have a reason to park in a wheelchair space," he said, pointing to hire care drivers at airports, whom he said try to "park close to terminals to meet their passengers".

Mixed reactions to woman's parking fine

Online, people had mixed responses. "She wasn't disabled. Cop the fine," one person said in response to the situation. "Absolutely the fine is fair," a man argued.

Another person said they were "not advocating against any sort of consequences for breaking the rules" but "frankly $644 is simply and utterly outrageous in anyone's language".

According to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, there's been a 31 per cent increase in the number of people contesting parking fines in court in the last year, something 1,150 Aussies did in the 12 months to September, up from 885 the year before. Just one in five of those appeals were successful.

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