Thursday, March 13, 2014

MY MATTER DISMISSED: Yes D-I-S-M-I-S-S-E-D

(Selfie outside the Downing Centre)


(Downing Centre reflected in mirrored building)


(My chariot of fire)


In somewhat of a surprise turn of events yesterday, my matter was dismissed!

When I got to the bar table after my name had been called, the magistrate asked the police prosecutor if they had a witness to which the police prosecutor replied yes, setting in motion the calling of the aforementioned witness on the court PA system ...

... only I already knew that that witness wouldn't be in court because he'd called me the week before last to mention that he'd been transferred to a seaside town north of Sydney, and he wanted to check that I would be ok with him reading his statement via videolink.

As I knew there was a strong possibility that I would agree with his facts (me riding my bicycle without wearing a helmet), I said that would be fine.

Helpfully, I mentioned all this to the court.

The police prosecutor knew none of this and was then directed by the magistrate to make inquiries.

Ho hum the minutes ticked by as did the hours and by 11 o'clock the Magistrate asked the police prosecutor again for news on the witness. Still no joy but he delegated the 'finding-out' task to one of his colleagues (another police prosecutor) who disappeared to make the relevant phone calls.

Upon his return he called me out of the courtroom to say to me that their witness (policeman who booked me) had said that I had pleaded guilty on the phone by way of explanation.

Well that was news to me!

No, I said, that was not the case - I would never ever plead guilty to a matter like this.

Nevertherless the police prosecutor was determined that I had and was very keen to just go back into court to say that this was what had happened.

No way was that going to happen, absolutely not!

I pointed out to the police prosecutor that this was a defended hearing and that I had not come to court to plead guilty. I reiterated that what I had said to the policeman was that it would be fine to read his statement via videolink, and I would agree that whilst riding a bicycle I was not wearing a helmet.

But I had never pleaded guilty.

Noneplussed he was determined that I had by way of explanation, and that it was a strict liability matter, and that I obviously didn't understand the court process which they would explain once we were back in court.

But since when did agreeing with the facts mean that you were automatically pleading guilty? - and a strict liability matter ... yes ... but it's not an absolute liability matter so there was some room for me to make my case.

But the pièce de résistance was when he said to me did I realise that it would be my word against a policeman's - honestly how intimidating, but I mentioned that I was reasonably confident my word wouldn't be trashed by the court to which he muttered that if I didn't agree with him they would be forced to ask for an adjournment - oh please after all the time I had wasted waiting for them to get their act together!

Anyway so back into court we trotted and waited again until the matter was rementioned - and boy did he leap quickly to the bar table to explain that the newly-relocated seaside officer had said that he'd rung me last Friday and that I'd pleaded quilty to the facts which is why nothing had been arranged for the Defended Hearing. I too scrambled out of my seat near the back of the court and galloped to the table to say that was not the case and that I had not pleaded guilty, and that I fully intended to defend myself, and that the policeman had actually rung me on Friday 28th February, not last Friday.

Well the magistrate looked at the police prosecutor and remarked that it was not for the witness to make the decision as to whether I was pleading guilty or not, and then he said:

'This is a bicycle helmet matter, sergeant! You're not going to ask me for an adjournment are you? Case dismissed!'

Next I was saying 'thank you' and floating out of the court - how amazing.

'Take-home' message from all this? ... how unimportant bicycle helmet matters are in the Law & Order Scheme of Things, and that the police know they this and so do the courts.

Of course bicycle helmet law still stands, but without their witness' facts in court yesterday, the prosecution's case against me fell over!

And under those cicrcumstnaces, what's a court to do?!

29 comments:

  1. Excellent news! A glimmer of hope that this compulsory-helmet farce might not be held to be as important as some would like it to be?

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    1. Too bloody right, Fonant!!!! ... and many apologies for not getting back to your lovely comment sooner - things quite nutty here at the mo!

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  2. Good one Sue! Bet you felt great after that. About time for a win, even on a technicality.

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    1. Absolutely, Alan, every little bit helps chip away at that ignorant dogma that helmets are the last and final word on bicycle safety - sucked-in to all the helmet promoters out there

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  3. We'll done! So good the magistrate saw the matter to be as trite as it is.

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    1. Thank you, bicycles in newcastle!!!

      Yup both the magistrate and the policeman (who didn't turn up) exhibited signs that the crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet is a dumb crime currently littering their lives with unnecessary garbage!

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  4. There is a a lot of support for you Sue. Great result. The other side is clearly growing weak.

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    1. Yes! Yes! Yes, Kathy! Their arguments are starting to look pathetic to the public and in fact are starting to unravel!

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  5. Is it really a victory? I hate to be the only opposing voice in which seems to be a poke at a law you happen to not agree with, but there are peer reviewed facts, common sense, and individual case studies which show wearing a helmet may save your life. You may argue that your life isn't worth saving, especially if you've been disabled by a vehicular crash, but I'd rather not hail your being able to have curly hair at the expense of saving your brain function a victorious solution.

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    1. SteveF you had better start to wear a helmet in your car before you pass judgement on someone else's right to choose.
      My assessment of your comment is you are a nanny statist.who would believe the sky was falling if an acorn fall on your head.

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    2. Dave McLoughlin

      SteveF, The whole thing is about personal choice as opposed to having mandates shoved down adult throats. I would wear a helmet in the appropriate circumstances and go without in the appropriate circumstances. What I don't need is another person or group of persons telling me I must at all times. Australia is a country where this behaviour by "safety" bodies has gone too far.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Thanks Stephen for your review of my comment, rather than take an opposing view into your own consideration, I see you've decided to label me a 'nanny statist' presumably this was intended to be an acronym for 'nanny state advocator' though I may not share your isolated vocabulary.
      Please be aware though, that I'm not against euthanasia in certain circumstances, which may ironically, be due to brain death after an incident without a bike helmet. I'm personally glad there are people like you Stephen, who have considered, and peer reviewed evidence to back up their assessments of a 'right to choose', much like it's everyone's 'right to choose' to not wear a seatbelt, or motorbike helmet, or maybe even remove those bothersome airbags. If I were to, I could then justify your well-considered comment regarding my wearing a bike helmet in the car.
      If I may, as a retort to your presumably derogatory remark, I would need to label you a 'contemptuous insurgent'.

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    5. Dave McLoughlin, I'm not about to get into a 'flame war' with everyone who reads my comment, I only hope to highlight the importance of wearing a helmet when cycling, the reason it's mandated much like speed limits, is to stop the majority of people killing themselves the majority of the time. If the law were flexible enough to allow some to wear helmets and others not to, it wouldn't be enforceable, and therefore would fail to save anyone.
      To surmise, you don't like it, the lady with the lovely hair doesn't like it, I'm assuming Mr. Humble doesn't like it, and sometimes I don't like it, but it's the law, and getting off on a technicality neither sends a good message to (here comes the 'won't someone think of the children' comment) our children, to the A&E nurses and doctors who have to try and patch these people together, or to anyone to has been saved by helmets.
      I'll save you all and make this my last comment.

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    6. Thanks for sparing us a flame war. It is contemptuous to assume that Freedom Cyclist started this blog just because of her lovely hair. Have you ever been to a country, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, parts of Germany, many parts of France and elsewhere, where riding a bicycle is simply a normal activity, and nobody, save sport cyclists, feels the need to wear special "kit"?

      The Netherlands has the lowest rate of cycling fatalities and serious injuries in the world, and the lowest helmet use rate (these are almost exclusively worn by sport riders). Study this subject before you assume that we don't care about risks. We want to reduce such risks by increasing the number and range of everydays cyclists.

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    7. Forget about "flame wars" - you refer to peer-reviewed facts, something called "common sense" (which term normally signifies neither common, nor sense) and "individual case studies" (which normally means anything from "a helmet saved my life" through to "I'm a trauma surgeon and I reckon helmets save lives".

      Actually, if you check out the most comprehensive resources on cycle helmets, such as the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (http://www.cyclehelmets.org/) you'll find that "research" which purportedly proves that cycle helmets achieve meaningful safety benefits really don't stand up to scrutiny.

      It's not to say that there is no benefit in wearing a helmet, but the benefits are simply not sufficiently well supported to justify such an intrusion on people's freedom to choose whether or not to wear one.

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    8. SteveF, I think you will find while speed limits exist to prevent car drivers from killing other people, mandatory helmet laws exist to prevent prevent car drivers killing people on bikes. I'm not sure why the bike riders are the ones being punished like that, but it hardly seems like an appropriate solution to the problem.

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    9. I get where SteveF is coming from, but riding to the shops 700m down the road does not warrant me wearing a helmet. And it _is_ a hassle, and does frankly make me want to just forget it and walk or drive. Add kids and dogs, and a helmet is a royal PIA. A helmet is a poor substitute for safe infrastructure, safe conditions, and proper safe laws where they count (such as strict-liability) - which is what most of us want to support cycling for the masses (e.g. my mum and my kids). It's frankly very insulting that our government thinks a helmet is good enough protection on a bike, no matter the road situation. It's a complete cop-out. It's time for our government and councils to step up and do the right thing to support people getting on bikes, and granting them safe passage. Our situation is farcical compared to almost anywhere else in the world. End of rant :P Nice one, Sue!

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    10. To Paul M.
      Your appreciation of meaningful evidence is seriously flawed, or you are subject to some serious confirmation bias, if you think that the 'Bicycle helmet research Foundation' at all represents the balance of evidence from peer reviewed journals on the subject of helmet efficacy.

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    11. Dear SteveF,

      Thank you for your comments which have certainly engendered some lively discussion.

      Notwithstanding I wish to point out that at no point in my campaigning for the repeal of mandatory bicycle helmet regulation have I ever argued that my life is not worth saving in whatever form it might present itself. That was your particular take on my case, questionably unbacked by any evidence. I just wanted to straighten out that little anomaly before I went any further.

      Now with regard to the peer reviewed facts you quote are out there in the public domain, yes agreed, and peer reviewed facts appear for camps arguing for mandatory helmet law and for camps arguing against too. Clearly this whole issue is very much one that can be considered as one in scientific dispute. As such a law prescribing the compulsory wearing of a piece of safety equipment ought not to have been brought into effect when academics and scientists across the globe are completely divided as to its merits.

      Ahhhh and then we come to common sense - haven't we all been invited to consider that one over and over again before? Sigh ... and where has it ever got us?

      We were told once upon a time that babies must sleep on their sides, and then, oh no, we were told they mustn't, that they must sleep on their fronts, and then oh no we were told that they mustn't, that they must sleep on their backs! And we were told women over 50 needed cancer screening via mammography and now look at the negative evidence flooding in from overseas? And we were told we must cut down our fat and our salt but not worry about sugar too much, and ... oh and so on ...

      Common sense I'm afraid is a very flawed platform to create good public health policy from.

      And then we come to case studies. Now I'm truly sorry, but if you're a lover of evidence you know that case studies just don't cut it - they are not class 1 evidence and very much tend towards the anecdotal (shudder from me!) and honestly, mandatory compulsion should never be based on such flimsy observational observations.

      And now the matter of my hair! No-one can help themselves remarking upon my abundant locks so I don't blame you at all about being equally follicularly distracted.

      Judges, magistrates, police, street 'cat-callers,' TV-presenters, politicians, you name them they are all of your whimsical imaginings that it is a ‘hair-thing’ that is driving my quest for the revocation of reg 256.

      Notwithstanding if you're going to comment on my hair you need to consider it in detail and then you would see that nothing, and I repeat nothing could actually squash my hair. Seriously helmet-hair is not a condition that I would likely experience even if I was forced to wear one 24/7.

      Inter alia, already the powers of observation studies are sorely tested into easy facile assumptions that are not helpful or accurate.

      And then we arrive at your comments on my brain function. Now the assumption that wearing a helmet will protect what existing cerebral powers I currently have whilst riding a bicycle on Australian roads, are fatuous at best, but very common so please stress not. You are among the many ignorant folk in Australia who haven't a clue about using a bicycle or in fact using evidence full stop. You are part of the perfectly gullible mass that corporations depend on for their bottom lines, and that is what distinguishes you from me ...

      ... I am not; I am a marketer's nightmare because I draw upon a wide range of research, and from there make my own informed decisions to either consent or refuse proposals that all too often put forward in the name of $$$.

      Lovely to chat though!

      Kind regards,
      Sue

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    12. Dear Sue,
      Contrary to my previous comment, I feel I must clarify for readers sakes, some points which may have been either purposely or mistakenly misconstrued.
      Initially, the intricate point of whether a helmet will save your life in the event of a head related incident is not up for discussion, (even if you don't believe in common sense, you have to concede that putting something between your head and the road is good) if you choose not to believe the evidence, or choose to believe that scientific research is flawed because it changes when new evidence is discovered, that's entirely up to you, and as I don't care about your life (nothing personal) I don't care about your personal choices.
      What I do care about, is people reading your post, and assuming that it's evidence enough to not wear a bike helmet. To that end I endeavoured to put forward an alternative point of view, which I understand from your post, wouldn't be gratefully received, as we're all looking for positive re-enforcement of our own unshakeable opinions.
      That being said, I will concede that, in theory, we should be able to evaluate the 'threat of death by head injury versus inconvenience' argument without intervention by a governing body.
      I also agree in principle that going to court over enforcing helmet wearing seems counter productive.
      Finally, a point which I should have started and finished with:
      I'll be paying $100 every four years for a helmet, because I value my head that much. If the laws change, the prices go up, consensus alters, anti-establishment opinions abound, or fashion dictates otherwise, I'll still wear a helmet because I value my life over any inconvenience.
      If you don't and want to flout the law, 'knock yourself out'.

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    13. Hi Steve,
      You wrote: 'What I do care about, is people reading your post, and assuming that it's evidence enough to not wear a bike helmet'
      Don't worry, readers of this site pretty much have their minds made up that helmets=unspeakable evil: so you don't have to worry about an erstwhile helmet wearer suddenly having their minds changed by 'www.helmets_are_evil_and_will_kill_your_unborn_kitten.org' or whatever other links that writers here might convince quote to convince the unwary.
      If you want a laugh have a look at www.bcrf.org and cgrag.asn.au which are endless mines of cherrypicked data.
      At least Sue allows dissenting opinion on this site.

      regards,

      seamus

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  6. Oh Sue I am so happy for you!! It really does show how ridiculous the prosecutors were in their little game that the Magistrate kicked them to the kerb!! Although a technical win it still goes down in the positive column for me!!

    Oh, and on a related matter: SteveF - really mate, you are kidding yourself. Have you really investigated and analysed the research you quote?? I am sure you think your bike hat will prevent 89% of injuries as the research (sponsored by Bell Helmets) found for infants . . . open your eyes and realise that we are not on suicide missions when we enjoy riding our bikes . . .

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  7. Sue, congratulations, that's great news. Just shows what a total ass the law is! And SteveF, I've never heard such crap in my life. Cycle helmets do not save lives, FACT, cycle helmets do not even make cyclists safer, FACT. The only thing that actually does both of these things is proper facilities for cyclists, segregated from motor vehicles. That's why all cyclists should be campaigning for space4cycling, not useless plastic hats!

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    1. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/29/us-bicycle-helmet-idUSBRE94S18320130529

      You may be happy to not wear a helmet yourself ( and I support that right) but the law is for more than fully-autonomous citizens.

      regards,

      seamus

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    2. Thanks, goodwithwords!!! ... and I totally concur with your sentiments!

      ... and, Seamus, the law requiring us to wear bicycle helmets is a load of rubbish!

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    3. Hi Sue,
      Thanks for the considered comment. I am happy that the law is retracted for adults but as kids have poor co-ordination, poor judgement and even poorer balance i feel that there is a strong case for compulsory helmets for children whilst riding on public roads.

      regards,

      seamus

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  8. I work in a hospital and cycle. After seeing the results of heads hitting the ground for various reasons (not just cycling) I personally would never go without my helmet. I personally believe do what you want and make your own choicesbut make sure you know and understand all the risks. A 700m ride to the shops can still bring you into contact with someone stupid. I came off my bike once, 100 mts from my front door when some a-hole on a bike too rode off the footpath straight into the side of me, despite it being daylight and me wearing a bright orange t-shirt. My head hit the ground but I had a helmet so despite head and neck ache for a day or so I was ok. But like I said its your own choice and do as you please just be careful whatever you do helmet or not.

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