I wouldn’t call it a police state, but…
… but things do seem to be tilted in their favour sometimes, as two stories this week about policing in different parts of Oz illustrate.
First, over in the west, yet another example of the law punishing the innocent and guilty alike when it comes to impounding cars for speeding, though in effect the innocent party receives the bulk of the punishment by being deprived of their property while the driver cops a fine and is at liberty to carry on driving their own car.
A Mercedes-Benz dealership employee has been left red-faced and on foot after having a work car impounded for 28 days for speeding.
The 26-year-old woman was allegedly caught doing 105km/h in a 50km/h zone in East Waikiki, Western Australia, driving a near new Mercedes-Benz C250 Avantgarde. […]
The woman reportedly had permission to drive the car, but not that quick. The driver has been summonsed for reckless driving.
Western Australia’s laws are particularly tough on hoons, with police able to impound vehicles for up to 28 days for speeding offences, even if the car isn’t owned by the driver.
Western Australia’s laws are not unique in the country as far as I know, and I’ve certainly seen similar things happen to so-called ‘hoon’ drivers in their mums’ cars here in Victoria on those Police, Film Crew, Dickhead Driver type TV shows that fill TV slots for no better reason than being dirt cheap to make. What seems to set WA apart is that states such as Victoria that happily confiscate cars despite them not belonging to the offender mostly do so for a couple of days, while over in the west the rozzers feel no guilt at all about adhering to the letter of a bad law and sitting on an innocent third party’s property for a whole month, despite them not even being present when the alleged offence occurs. They do this when the driver protests his innocence and announces their intention to fight the charge in court, which turns the notion of innocence until guilt is proven on its head and must be a bit embarrassing for the cops when the driver is then found not guilty.* They do it when it rapidly becomes clear that the driver didn’t have permission to be in the car in the first place. And it turns out that they do it when it’s a demo vehicle belonging to a dealership, and they do it even if it happens to be the dealership’s only demo vehicle for that model. Oh, and by the way, they’ve also had cars stolen while in police care recently.
In all these cases apart from the one stolen from the towing yard the person or body with legal title to the confiscated cars was not the driver and wasn’t even present when the alleged offence – and since at least one case has been successfully defended we really must say alleged offence – occurred, yet all have been punished by the confiscation of their property. And as the case that was successfully challenged makes apparent, if it turns out that the police got it wrong it’s all too late because the car will have been given back long before and there’s no way to retroactively un-confiscate it. Even if they go out and hire another car for you for a month you can’t drive two at a time anyway. There’s simply no getting round the fact that the law has punished innocents, and it doesn’t seem eager to fix that.
Police Minister Rob Johnson says the car dealer who had his Mini Cooper S impounded yesterday after a test driver was allegedly clocked at 170kmh was not let down by the law.
Mr Brandon said the legislation had punished his company for something they did not do.
”We feel a bit hard done by,” Mr Brandon said.
“Unfortunately we lent a car to someone and they behaved badly and now we have had it confiscated with no great loss to him (test driver).”
He lodged an appeal against the confiscation but it was rejected by police.
Mr Johnson said he sympathised with Mr Brandon but insisted the law had not let him down.
“I accept this is a very difficult situation and I sympathise with Darrin,” Mr Johnson said.
“Let’s not lose focus here. Mr Brandon hasn’t been let down by the law, he’s been let down by someone who chose to drive one of his cars in a dangerous and reckless way.”
Don’t see the police minister explaining how Mr Brandon or his company is responsible for someone else ‘who chose to drive one of his cars in a dangerous and reckless way’ but there you go. That was the attitude of WA’s Liberal run government and it’s police minister in 2010 and presumably still is since neither have changed and the election’s not due ’til next year.
As I mentioned, this is not unique to the sand grubbers and happens over here in the eastern states as well, and that’s another worry for victorians because it turns out that the police have another little advantage when it comes to walloping motorists. You know how police are supposed to follow certain rules when it comes to gathering evidence, like not beating the ‘truth’ out of suspects or manufacturing evidence? In most places one of those rules is that evidence gathered illegally isn’t admissible, and as far as I knew that’s the case here too. It’s not to make police work harder than it needs to be or to make it more difficult to lock up criminals, or rather it is but the intent is to make it less likely that innocent people are punished as a result of police cocking things up and arresting the wrong people – and if you don’t think that’s a valid concern can I suggest you re-read the first half of the post dealing with the punishment of innocent parties.
So imagine my surprise when it turned out this week that setting up a speed trap in an illegal location doesn’t invalidate the fines. Surprise? Sorry, I meant concern.
A speed camera operator will be slapped with a fine after parking illegally to catch speeding motorists in Belmont.
But despite doing the wrong thing, speeding fines will still be issued to anyone nabbed by the vehicle.
Ross Kroger snapped the snapper after coming across the vehicle in Roslyn Rd last week, parked so far out from the kerb it was blocking the bicycle lane.
The photographs were referred by the Geelong Advertiser to the Victoria Police traffic camera office for review.
The office found the operator had parked the car out from the kerb to avoid reflections, which can distort speed camera results, but admitted the car contravened the road rules and issued a $73 parking infringement notice to the operator.
Anyone caught by the camera doing less than 10km/h over the speed limit can expect to be fined more than twice that amount.
Fine, you might say. The operator’s getting a parking ticket and where he parked doesn’t change the fact that people who got tickets were speeding, so what’s your problem here, Angry? Well, leaving aside concerns with various handheld speed measuring devices and the ability of some to get speed readings from stationary objects (not least because I have no idea which one was being used and whether such concerns apply), my problem here is with the principle of police gathering evidence correctly and in a way which is unimpeachable. Not because I want criminals and bad drivers – and I mean the real dickheads, not merely people who are more than 2km/h over and can afford a fine – to get away with it but because we all should want to be sure that in their eagerness to get the right man the police aren’t sometimes getting the wrong one as well.
And this business with speeding fines from an illegally sited camera isn’t just thin end of the wedge-ism on my part – even before this we’d already seen a fatter part of the wedge when, as I blogged at the Orphanage in March, it turned out that thousands of search warrants in Victoria had been issued on improperly sworn affidavits and were therefore invalid. Didn’t stop them being executed and people arrested, charged and jailed as a result of some of them, and when it emerged that Victorian officers had been making a complete Horlicks of this for years what was the reaction of the state government? Well, much the same as with that speed camera really (my bold).
ROBERT CLARK, VICTORIAN ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We simply cannot afford to have cases being delayed, growing demands on the court system, and potentially serious offenders walking free from court simply because police or others have failed to comply with proper procedural formalities.
Translation: they dunnit, we knowit, so screwit. And with that attitude it requires a a lot of faith in the reliability of a service that’s admitted many of its officers couldn’t follow procedure in getting affidavits to keep innocent people from being arrested and and punished by accident. More faith than I have, to be perfectly honest.
Funny, isn’t it? Plenty of people in the UK worry about arming the cops there. I live somewhere where we see routinely and openly armed police on the streets every day and the guns aren’t the part that worry me about policing. The worst they can do with those is… well, okay, the worst is actually shooting you dead but at least they still get in a colossal amount of shit for shooting innocent citizens. But what really worries me is that more than ever the activities of the police, and not just Victoria’s, need to be beyond reproach, and yet the rules that are supposed to hold them to account seem to be flexible. And I feel we should want to avoid moving goalposts in any area of policing if we also want to avoid the day when they don’t into a colossal amount of shit for shooting innocent citizens.
* Actually this is just me speculating. For all I know they don’t give a rip and it may be more accurate to say that they bloody well ought to be embarrassed.