My first day in court

May 20, 2011 at 22:45 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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After receiving two tickets for riding without a helmet, I went to court this week to start my challenge to this ridiculous law, and to plead my innocence.

I was hoping to get the matter dealt with on the day, but my hearing was deferred until Friday 27th May. I pleaded ‘Not Guilty’, and on the 27th will attempt to argue that I can be excused from wearing a helmet on the grounds of ‘necessity’; a legal device in NSW that essentially means you do not have to follow a law that puts your life or health at risk.

The whole experience was quite interesting. The courtroom has the presiding chair (normally occupied by the judge or magistrate) at the back on a raised stage, with a lower dais for the court officials. Facing this (on ‘ground level’) is a table, and behind the table are a few rows of chairs. I was one of the first people to get into the courtroom, and sat in the front row of chairs. A swarm of other people rushed in and grabbed the few chairs at the table, with some others taking the chairs next to me.

Finally the court was in session – it was the Registrar’s court, so rather than being where cases are heard it is kind of the sorting room for cases to be sent off to be dealt with elsewhere.

It was quite chaotic. Someone at the table would jump up, and call out ‘I’d like to raise the matter of Joe Bloggs’. The Registrar and prosecution would ferret around a mountain of paperwork to find Joe Bloggs’ papers, and some discussion would ensure about why the case needed to be deferred, or brought forward, or whatever. A decision would be made, and then the next person would leap up.

I soon twigged that all the people swarming to get to the table were lawyers, and it seems the rule was simply to shout loudest, and thus get your case heard. There were some comical moments, including the lawyer with a long list of names whom he called, and then admitted that he had received no instructions from any of his clients, and therefore did not know what to plead, nor if they needed more time. There was also a lady barrister who was unable to get a word in edgeways, as every time she rose to speak some other lawyer would jump in in front of her, as she made despairing faces at her client, including shrugging her shoulders and mouthing ‘how rude!’.

It soon became clear that the order of proceedings had nothing whatsoever to do with the times on the sheet pinned up outside the courtroom, and that if I wanted to get heard I would have to join in the scrum. Accordingly when a lawyer vacated a chair at the table I leapt into it, and then quickly stood up and called out that I wanted to raise the matter of my own case.

My paperwork was found, and I confirmed that I wanted to plead ‘Not Guilty’. The registrar asked if I had any witnesses, and I said I did not, and furthermore would not need the police officers to attend either as I was not going to contest the facts of the case. There was some discussion of this, and then the prosecution agreed that no legal brief would therefore be provided, and I was given a hearing date.

So I go back to court on Friday for the real thing. My chances of winning are very slim – but there is just a chance I could set a NSW legal precedent. Which would be handy as I have another outstanding ticket pinned to the fridge.

The best part of the day, though, was riding to court. It was a beautiful day; sunny but cool and crisp, and I rode all the way in my best suit; sitting upright and stately on the Radish and feeling like a million dollars. (I was secretly hoping to be photographed for Sydney Cycle Chic, but I suspect I’m not good looking enough…)

I rode up to the court and hopped off my bike in front of the police officers standing outside. Without wearing a helmet, obviously.

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1 Comment »

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  1. Not sure if this helps but if you are playing the necessity angle, for DAI:
    http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/1987/pdf/Mcycle_Helm_1.pdf
    http://ec.europa.eu/transport/roadsafety_library/publications/cost327_final_report.pdf
    The EU report shows that 60% of serious head injuries (on motor bikes) are from rotational injuries while the AU report found bike helmet rotational accelerations obtained were about 30% higher than the polymer motorcycle full face helmets tested.
    If you haven’t already, get in touch with Sue Abbott who successfully contested DAI.
    Another angle would be skin cancer. ASZNS2061 states that helmets can have no more than 5mm external extrusions (thus incompatible with wide brims) and skin cancer deaths in Oz are close to 2000 per year.

    Good luck


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