(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?!