Friday, September 27, 2013

Guilty as charged - my day in court

(Photos: I feel like Newtown's St Mary Street counterflow - only I'm not legal)

I'm a criminal again - and do you know what everyone has been telling me?

"You won't be able to travel to the US!"

Well, in answer to that, dear peeps, I boycotted the US way before they did me so ... whoop-di-doo-dah!

But back to the matter in hand.

Last week at the Downing Centre in Sydney, I presented myself to Local Court 5:1 to defend the matter of Australian bicycle helmet crime.

When my name was called out I approached the bar table to give a brief 'heads-up' on what I would be saying and then resumed my seat next to one of the many police in the room. As I did so I couldn't help but notice the young police-prosecutor (PP) at the bar table mouth to a row of incessantly-chatting young suits sitting along the wall to the side of her, "who was that?"

Nice, I thought!

Anyway, not long after that she made her way to the back of the court where I was sitting and asked me to follow her outside ... so I did.

She mentioned that she was taking me to meet the Duty Solicitor, and I questioned why as I was representing myself. She reassured me all would be fine and along we trotted to a glass-box room seemingly plonked in the middle of the waiting area outside court 5:1.

After making introductions to aforementioned Duty Solicitor (DS) and his young 'colleague-student-wife-gf-sister-daughter ... don't-know-never-formally-explained,' she left us to it.

As I had with the PP, I raised with the DS that I was representing myself and therefore unclear of the exact purpose of this meeting. Once again I was reassured that all would be fine and that he was just giving away free advice ... that he did this sort of thing once a month ... good community service ... blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah. Clearly this act of goodness was much admired by young 'colleague-student-wife-gf-sister-daughter? ... don't-know-never-formally-explained,' who protested a desire to do same when she grew up ... sigh ...

The 'pro-bono love-in' put me on edge but sit down I did as the DS read through my police brief (I don’t remember giving my permission for him to have it or read it ... ?).

Anyway a daft Q&A ensued along the lines of 'you're sure you weren't wearing a helmet' which then followed with questions on apprehended violence orders (AVOs) that had been mixed up with my helmet brief - oh boy did that make me feel secure in our legal system??? Evidently someone else's stuff had been inserted with mine - for the record THERE ARE NO AVOs OUT AGAINST ME!

Quickly realising the AVO wrongness, he proceeded to look up 'bicycle helmet law' on natty smart phone and to share with me what regulation 256 had to say on the issue (spare me) subsequently advising that all would be well if I pleaded guilty by way of explanation.

I stood up immediately, thanked him for his advice but declared I wouldn’t be taking it. I continued that I fully intended to run my defended hearing with a plea of not guilty to which he said tersely that I would receive a criminal conviction, a big fine and that he would now have to mention to the court that I had not taken his advice.

Stepping out of the glass box room into the waiting area now packed to the rafters with polished unarmed police, I cooly mentioned that I had not sought his advice and felt trapped by his intended action to mention to the court my disinclination to take his advice ... to which he replied that if I didn’t want to heed his advice and wished to waste the court time, go ahead.

Now I took issue with his inference that I was wasting court time and said so, reminding him that I was as equally entitled to my day in court as anyone else waiting to be heard and that it was grossly unfair if my matter was automatically deemed vexatious because of the nature of the crime and my personal beliefs.

I also expressed my lack of 'impressed-ness' with regard to the AVO papers included in the police brief of evidence against me.

All round most unpleasant and I hadn’t even begun my defended-hearing.

Now completely ruffled, I took my seat again in the court next to one of the polished unarmed police inside the courtroom, and waited many hours before I gave sworn (or rather in my case, affirmed) evidence.

Eventually taking the stand, I stated that my circumstances and the extensive review of peer-reviewed articles conducted by me over the past few years had led me to the belief that I would be in danger if I rode a bicycle with a helmet, and would continue to be in danger unless I carried out my conduct of riding a bicycle without a helmet, and that for many years I had been communicating with our elected representatives urging revocation of Regulation 256.

I reiterated that I honestly believed that the risk of serious brain injury or death would be increased if I wore a helmet, and I held this belief on reasonable grounds. (At this point in order to support my argument, I submitted documents detailing the ACT coroner's findings into the death of a cyclist killed in a motor-vehicle accident whilst wearing a bicycle helmet accompanied by the coroner's post mortem pathologist's report that detailed the closed head injury - I also tendered my submission to the Vulnerable Road Users Inquiry accompanied by my letter to the then Minister for Roads, and Judge Ellis' judgment from the District Court appeal in March 2010).

I told the court that I understood from my readings that wearing a helmet could increase the angular acceleration which an oblique impulse imparts to the head, increasing the risk of damage to the brain (especially diffuse axonal injury)' and this I supported with a copy of an RTA memo, obtained through freedom of information, where on page 2, line 6 it states that 'there is the possibility that some helmets, in combination with particular size head forms, may have a small dis-benefit with regards to rotational acceleration.'

I also noted due to the fact that wearing a helmet increases the effective head circumference, it had the effect of amplifying rotational forces applied to the head in the event of a collision. I further explained for the court's benefit that rotational forces were the primary mechanism by which serious brain injury occurs, specifically diffuse axonal injury, and as such any increase in these forces increases the risk of such an injury.

I continued that with regards to the proportionality of response, the negative consequences of breaking the law by cycling without a helmet were not out of proportion with the danger intended to be averted by me by following it, and that the proportion between the threat and the degree of law-breaking underpinned the presence of my honest belief that it was necessary in self-defence to do what I did - namely ride a bicycle without wearing a helmet.

And with regards to immediacy of danger, I stated that catastrophic climate change compelled me to use a bicycle rather than a car which subsequently induced me to break the law to avoid the dire consequences of catastrophic brain injury.

I continued that considering diminishing coastlines, floods, dust-storms and dying rivers, it was now a question of survival to cycle whenever and wherever I could in a bid to curtail carbon emissions, and that climate justice could no longer be ignored as catastrophic climate change dictated immediate global responsibilities.

I also mentioned that I routinely transport groceries in Scone which would be impossible to do on foot, and that similarly in Sydney I required my bicycle for city living, and that by choosing to cycle and not to take public transport, I freed up a seat on a train or a bus for someone else who chose to take public transport rather than a bicycle.

I explained that I felt it was not reasonable I should be constrained by law to put my health and my life at risk when the safer alternative of riding a bicycle without a helmet (currently defined as an offence) would actually provide more protection against that risk arguably for both me and the planet.

I concluded that I honestly believed on reasonable grounds that the act of riding a bicycle without a helmet was necessary to preserve me from a serious danger to my life or my physical health which riding with a helmet would entail and that in the circumstances, the act of riding a bicycle without a helmet was not out of proportion to the danger to be averted and possessed an immediacy with regards to catastrophic climate change and my need to minimise my carbon footprint whenever and wherever possible.

Therefore I believed:

* that my beliefs were reasonably held as I perceived them and also as a reasonable person would perceive that I would hold them, and

* that it was and would continue to remain necessary for me to cycle and to do so without a helmet in self-defence, and

* that I should not be compelled by any state to do an act which put my health and life in greater danger than if I declined to do the act.

Disappointingly the court was not persuaded by my argument and I was convicted.

... guilty again, criminally convicted again.

Australia, done in your name again ... why? Oh what a day ...

... and as I cycled off to State Parliament to meet with my local member, the Hon. George Souris, I couldn’t help thinking about the unsettling happenings of those past 7 hours in court - all of which I shared with him as we sat in his office overlooking the Domain.

☹ I was particularly rattled that the police prosecutor had taken me without clear explanation to see the duty solicitor, automatically placing me in a position where I may have appeared ungracious and vexatious by declining his advice.

☹ I was particularly rattled to observe this close association between the prosecution and the defence when I had always supposed that they played for different teams

☹ I was particularly rattled that a copy of the police brief of evidence against me had been disseminated to other parties, namely the duty solicitor, without my permission.

☹ I was particularly rattled to be asked about AVO matters included in the police brief of evidence against me which were completely WRONG & NOTHING TO DO WITH ME

☹ I was particularly rattled by the incorrect Roads & Traffic Authority's (RTA's) now Roads & Maritime Services' (RMS') traffic record supplied to the police. Outrageously my first bicycle helmet matter way back in 2009 had been recorded as me riding 'alone' on a motor-bike without a helmet!!! For the record, I HAVE NEVER BEEN THE DRIVER/RIDER ON A MOTOR-BIKE! Such details are important as they have a bearing on your reputation particularly at the sentencing stage of defended hearings. Riding a motor bike without a helmet is a matter that is recorded on your traffic record; riding a bicycle without a helmet is a matter that is not. Was this done on purpose so that my traffic record would look more substantially naughty? But what I really want to know is how does a large government funded body such as the RMS with considerable and immense resources at their fingertips get this so wrong?

☹ I was particularly rattled when my local MP warned me that if I continued objecting to bicycle helmet law in my current campaigning manner that I could end up going to prison ... to that unsettling warning I heartily retorted that his government ought to be ashamed of themselves if they were already aware that their laws and provisions could end up seeing the incarceration of me for my conscientious objection to a questionable safety device.

Oh dear ... it's all so exhausting ...

Anyhoo, you probably won't be surprised to read that prior to meeting up with George, my honourable pooh-bah, I had lodged an appeal the minute I walked out of the Downing Centre Local Court no. 5:1 ...

... but basically notwithstanding all that and everything else to come ... it's sighs all round as always ...


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Criminally convicted of Australian bicycle helmet crime

(Photos: me & dear pal outside Court, taken by friendly policeman)

Downing Centre, Thursday:

Guilty of Australian bicycle helmet crime.

My argument that I was operating in self-defence was unheeded.

I have lodged an appeal

Stay tuned ...

... more detail in next couple of days!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sydney Airport last night; Sydney Law-Court today

In between jotting down points for today's (eeeek) defended hearing, I trundled BN2 off to the airport last night in our beautiful Christiania!!!

Now tell me this ... what other vehicle can go from door ...

... to door?!!!

Aaaah & what a beautiful journey we shared ...
BN2 chortled with delight as she snapped 'bye-bye to Zanzibar' ...

... & Wilson Street, & King Street ...

... & Airport Drive

... until we finally got inside T1 (Terminal 1) and made our way to check in.

Quick cuppa with BN2, oodles of hugs and then it was time to 'hit the road, jack' for yours truly to get back to 'self-defence' and bundles of documents and cups and cups of strong black coffee all jumbled up with a whole pile of butterflies ...

... only a matter of hours before I'm standing in front of a magistrate.

Oop-la, here we go again!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Suppository of wisdom or misogynist

(Images: Julia Gillard's misogyny speech, YouTube)

From this (the sublime) ...

(Images: Tony Abbott's suppository speech, YouTube)

... to this (the ridiculous) ...

Dear world, please don't ask me any questions - I don't know how we got here ... sigh

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Charge of the Lycra Brigade

(Images: screen capture, Tony (no-relation-to-me) Abbott)

$$$ Bicycle helmet laws

$$$ Cycling body armour

$$$ Hi-vis vests, and

$$$ SAI Global and their Standards ...

... contribute to the pervasive militarisation of our whole culture ...

And looking at the tenders that SAI GLobal secures, it would be hard not to notice how significantly they feature in government procurement for the Defence department...

Actually you really have to start wondering whether there's an 'industry pie' anywhere in Australia that doesn't contain SAI Global's fingers ...

Notwithstanding jokes & asides, we're assiduously being groomed for war by ever-vigilant oil companies, and bicycle helmets play a part in the soft 'push' for world oil-transport dominion.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Follow the money

(Off to Father's Day picnic, ignoring daft bicycle helmet laws)

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has been a big backer of mandatory bicycle helmet laws for more than two decades.

In fact it could be said that by specifically pursuing this line in the helmet stakes, UNSW positioned themselves to receive a continuous flow of dollars through Australian Research Council (ARC) grants and in effect has subsequently become the governments' go-to rebuttals department.

Now a couple of new papers extolling the virtues of bicycle helmet law have been added into the bottomless-cup of our very own uniquely Australian academic bicycle helmet ping-pong competition.

(Traffic Injury Prevention Online)

(Journal of Australasian College of Road Safety pp11-20)

(Big sigh from me & oop-la... here we go again!)

Under funding set down for the years 2006 ($45,000), 2007 ($90,000), 2008 ($79,000) and 2009 ($34,000) by an ARC linkage grant LP0669480 (pps 7&8) involving partnerships with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, NRMA Motoring & Services, the now Roads and Maritime Services, the Transport Accident Commission Victoria, and DVExperts International, UNSW administered the 'Pedal and motor cycle helmet performance study.'

To date LP0669480 has already provided us with this paper and that paper, and from recalling what used to be listed on the School of Risk and Safety Science website this one and that one too, along with research assistants guessing by ads placed on UNSW's website and even websites overseas (p8) with this mob just for starters (nice work if you can get it!).

So here I am, preparing to defend myself against the NSW State government in court next week for the crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet and I'm screaming from the roof tops because it looks like this perpetual quest to prove that bicycle helmets are more that just a Harry Potter mantle of safety is going to carry on forever despite the cost to Australia both publicly and individually...

(elected reps, why can't you see this?)

My mind has gone into overdrive!

I have long wanted to know, right down to the very last cent, the full extent of bicycle helmet research funding, how it is acquired and how it is spent. Given the Australian public purse has had bicycle helmet research foisted upon it for decades, in my view we have a right to see the breakdown of costs especially when you consider that we've been forced to pick up so many bills including the one covering law enforcement and punishment in a bid to ensure compliance.

... is our government nuts or is our government nuts?

And now with these new papers on the scene, I remember that I've been wanting to know for ages how far an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant stretches and for how long?

... because the really big question here that needs to be answered is what exactly is the financial role the 'partners' play in this academic ping-pong exercise, you know those 'partners' which are so evidently drawn from the Oil-Using Bodies?

... and thinking of Oil-Using Bodies, that in turn has prompted me to think about the failed Melbourne bike share scheme and why the RACV put in a tender to operate it in the first place, and why that tender was ever granted to them?

... but my mind is revving out of countrol ... back to the issues at hand stirred up by the arrival of these new research papers ...

Why does the Australian Transport Safety Bureau care enough to be a partner in bicycle helmet research?

Why does the NRMA Motoring and Services care enough to be a partner in bicycle helmet research?

Why does the Roads and Maritime Services care enough to be a partner in bicycle helmet research?

Why does the Transport Accidenct Commission Victoria care enough to be a partner in bicycle helmet research?

Why does DVExperts International care enough to be a partner in bicycle helmet research?

And how much do they all put in?

And what's in it for them?


Anyhoo, notwithstanding all of that, according to acknowledgments in the new Traffic Injury Prevention article, work was conducted at the Biomechanics and Gait Laboratory, School of Risk and Safety Sciences.

But 'why is it so?' when we know that the Biomechanics and Gait Laboratory spectacularly went to custard several years ago after it was discovered that...

"...errors in the software that analysed the walking patterns of disabled children had gone uncorrected for a year, putting children at risk of undergoing the wrong operations and infuriating doctors"

... followed by the School of Risk and Safety Science also going to custard which in turn was then decommissioned in December 2010?

If this is the case as we were led to believe, where exactly have the authors been conducting their work since 2010 when the lab and school were reported to have closed? Or didn't they ever shut their doors?

And what can we take from these new findings? Are they actually new or conveniently re-purposed to fit the government position in the face of growing opposition to helmet law?

After last month's drug trial suspension and the recent collapse of UNSW's ethics committee throwing the future of critical projects into flux, I couldn't help but be reminded of concerns that I'd had in 2010, and others had had in 2011 and 2012.

At the time I had written to the Minister for Roads and Transport about the then widely-acknowledged academic unrest at UNSW’s School of Risk & Safety Science and the impact that may have had on sponsored policy studies that government relied upon to uphold bicycle helmet law, namely this one.

I was also concerned about one of the author's involvement in that study (and I note with interest that same author, Associate Professor McIntosh, is one of the authors listed in the new articles above) because of a perceived conflict of interest that I felt ought to have been disclosed at the time.

Back then Associate Professor McIntosh was a staff member of Delta-V Experts (a partner company and a company dealing in crash-investigation, biomechanics, injury & ergonomics, engineering consulting and workplace safety) and a member of the Standards Australia committees for pedal cycle helmets, equestrian helmets and the helmet test methods.

I felt that in these roles it was questionable whether the interests of the general public stood to be served in an independent manner juxtaposed against the interests of Delta-V Experts and Standards Australia which could have been said to have been served by finding in favour of bicycle helmets and further crash investigation studies.

The impact of bicycle helmet research has had far reaching consequences for Australia and it is not lost on me that this research has ensured that many of us remain criminals at large whenever we ride bicycles without helmets. Consequently as the major stakeholders that we are we have every right to inquire whether the research has been suitably independent.

I broached these concerns along with others that I had in a submission to the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in September 2011 because I felt they raised questions that warranted answers ... and they still do.

At one point in time following the money seemed a logical course of action to find some answers but a freedom of information request to the Australian Research Council for information on all bicycle helmet studies conducted in the last 25 year period took two months before I even got a response...

...and that response left a lot to be desired.

Given the resources at their fingertips it was beyond belief that they could only find one project title amongst their data. I had already discovered considerably more than 'one' on their very own ARC website - I just wanted to know the full extent of public money forked out by us ever since helmet promoters thought it would be a good idea to introduce helmet legislation using academic cheerleaders to facilitate it.

But back to these recently published papers and my looming court case and Australia's questionable oil culture, the money angle behind it all continues to intrigue me...

... so putting aside the public funding, what finanical arrangements are entered into with the aforementioned partners in the ARC Linkage Projects?

And how much is spent by one and all on trotting academics around the globe to do their paper rounds?

And why is it so important that Australia has helmet legislation when the evidence has never stacked up, and still doesn't?

And why should we listen to academics sitting in oil-sponsored chairs, funded by oil-sponsored departments?

And one more question, why is it always so hard getting access to these purportedly 'publicly' funded studies - shouldn't they be 'publicly' filed somewhere really obvious so we can get to them easily whenever we want?

Follow the money and it doesn't take much to elucidate that the 'bicycle is a real and immediate threat to the car industry' ...

(YouTube, TEDxCopenhagen - Why We Shouldn't Bike with a Helmet)

...and oil lovers are having none of it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Race to the bottom means a 'protest vote' for me

(Image: iCarly wiki)

Dear Potential Political Candidates,

Your cruelty towards asylum seekers makes me weep.

Your cruelty towards live animals and trade in their export makes me weep.

Your cruelty towards our first female prime minister makes me weep.

Inter alia, I wish to inform you that until such time as you can behave responsibly and humanely, I am no longer going to join in this farcial game where for one day every three years we play at being a democracy.

None of you shall have my vote.

Yours faithfully,

Sue (no-relation-to-tony) Abbott

(also posted on Scone Blog)