Friday, November 11, 2011

No bicycle helmet, no car licence - only in Australia

Media Release:

HUNTER VALLEY, 10 November 2011 – The new Courts and Other Legislation Further Amendment Bill 2011 introduced into the NSW Parliament during September is a welcome development, according to some politicians, advocacy groups and voters.

In the new Bill, a conviction will not include an order made under section 10(1)(a) of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 in relation to an offence that is not punishable by imprisonment.

The Hon. David Shoebridge stated that the Greens had spoken out against the earlier amendment moved by the previous Government , when it greatly ‘expanded the reach of the provisions of the Victims Compensation Support & Rehabilitation Act... even where a conviction was proved but the charges were dismissed under section 10.’

He also reminded Parliament that ‘when one considers that all those minor offences had to provide a $67 payment to the fund, the administrative costs involved in issuing notices and chasing up payments would have exceeded the $67 that was recovered in due course.’

Yet despite this turn of events, Sue Abbott of Scone is still required to pay into the fund.

After her last court appearance at the Scone & Muswellbrook Local Courts in July 2011 where she received a second section 10 (1)(a) dismissal for her crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet, she was amazed to receive a bill in the post a week later for $67 to be paid to the Victims Compensation Levy.

‘Exactly who,’ she asked herself, ‘was the victim?’ Appalled at the arbitrary tax nature of the levy, she commenced an active letter writing campaign with the NSW Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith.

Whilst the Attorney General acknowledged in correspondence with her that ‘Parliament recently decided that the levy should not apply to charges that are dismissed under s10(1)(a),’ he sternly advised her that she would still be required to pay the now vastly-increased levy as it is ‘imposed automatically under the law and as such is a debt owed to the Crown’.

Mrs Abbott said ‘this is analogous to pointing out to a bull-dozer driver that there are a 1,000s of people standing on the road he is bull-dozing, and him then saying “ok no worries but the first 20 or so along the first bit of road are going to get caught up in my braking process!”

She has now received a ‘Suspension of Driver’s Licence Notice’ to take effect next Tuesday 15 November 2011 and she is prepared to forgo her privileges as a motoring road user.

“It says a lot about Australia that the first tactic used to force your hand is to threaten you with removal of car privileges even when dealing with a bicycle user - in reality they’re the ones who are going to miss out on considerable revenue because I probably won’t ever renew my licence again, & therefore won’t need insurance, petrol, oil, tyres, cars – any of that Big Oil stuff.”


(4 days left on my driver's licence)


  1. So what was the actual reason for the licence suspension? Was it refusal to pay the Victims Compensation Levy fee, or something else?

  2. Hi Dave, yes it was the refusal to pay the Victims Compensation Levy automatically incurred after receiving s10(1)(a) dismissal

  3. Thanks for all your effort with this Sue.
    If enough cyclists were to follow your example, the car/oil lobby might stop 'encouraging' government to scare people away from bicycles. They can't sell cars to people who don't have a license.

  4. This is what I hate about bureaucracy - all of this makes no sense yet we are expected to comply or be penalised. Many questions pop up in our fabric of society now: Is a suspended license still a valid form of identification? (required on a monthly basis usually for one reason or another) How hard is it to un-suspend a license in the future? (probably no harder than the process that got it suspended!)
    All the best for your non-driving near-future.

  5. Sue, really sad to read about the suspension of your licence. It really does show the 'ugly' side of Australian bureaucracy (and the unfairness of this S10 dismissal business).

    In school we all got taught to stand up to bullies....and that's what you've been doing! :)

    I just hope with the lack of licence it encourages more happy (free) cycling.

    As always, best of luck in the fight against bureaucracy (aka Idiocracy).

    Kindest regards,
    Jason (formerly of Tassie).

    P.S. I'm planning on a holiday to Darwin in early 2012. Can't wait to see how helmet-less riders are treated there. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

  6. When I read this sentence

    "..where she received a second section 10 (1)(a) dismissal for her crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet.."

    all I can see is

    "..her crime of riding a bicycle.."

    and it just saddens me that so many otherwise respectable people honestly believe this is good for cycling in Australia. Oh well, the fight continues.

  7. Guys, it's so lovely to read all your words of reason & support

    - & indeed the fight certainly does continue!!!

  8. As I understand it, the VCL fee is $64. This is what the AG's office told me, at least.

    Has it gone up? Because if it's still $64, then I can't see that the court's original penalty notice is enforceable.

  9. I checked; the VCL is still $64, as here:
    (see section 79).
    I think it is therefore likley that the penalty notice sent to you, Sue, is unenforceable, given that it does not comply with the provisions of the Victims Support and Rehabilitation Act 1996.

  10. Thanks for that, Dan! - good to know for when I next communicate with the SDRO/AG/Local Court/Uncle Tom Cobbley & all!!!

    - can't believe that after 34 years of driving with a sound driving record, my licence has now been suspended - who does this help?

  11. Today I got confirmation from the court that the $67 VCL they sent me was in error; they have amended it to $64 and extended the time I have to pay it.

    However it has also become subject to an enforcement order, so I will have to ask the court to submit an anullment for that.

    I wonder how many other $67 VCL's they have sent out? Perhaps there's an opportunity for a class action...

  12. Procedural unfairness abounds, Dan! - well done - we're ripped off at every given opportunity and most of us either don't realise or just don't have the energy to fight - have just posted my letter to AG with my defunct driver's licence enclosed!!

  13. Sue,

    you're an example to us all and thank you for fighting this absurd law. I'm from England where there have been three attempts to pass a similar helmet law, mostly supported by the media, especially the BBC, but for some odd reason, your case has never been reported. Odd that.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again.

    Richard Burton