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Norman Waterhouse

Abuse of Authorised Officers Does Not Pay

The use of abusive language towards an authorised officer of the City of Burnside has cost a driver, who committed a typical parking offence, over $4,000 in penalties and costs.

On 16 July 2019, an authorised officer (the Officer) of the City of Burnside (the Council) was conducting a routine parking patrol when he sighted an Audi stopped in a clearly marked ‘no stopping zone’. The Officer pulled up next to the parked vehicle and attracted the attention of the driver (the Defendant), pointing to the ‘no stopping sign’. The Defendant questioned the authority of the Officer who, in turn, advised the driver that he worked for the Council and indicated towards the Council logo on his vehicle. The Defendant fired the first insult, stating “Good for you, you f***ing d***head”.

The Defendant began to drive away and the Officer determined not to pursue the matter, returning to his vehicle to leave. As the Defendant drove past the Officer, he yelled out loudly from his window “f*** you”.

The Officer returned to the street some 14 minutes later and found the same vehicle stopped in the same ‘no stopping zone’. The Officer took a number of photographs of the vehicle to which the Defendant exited his vehicle and shouted, “you send me the photos and I’ll see you in Court”.

An expiation notice was issued in relation to the parking offence and the Defendant subsequently elected to be prosecuted. The Council commenced prosecution proceedings against the Defendant laying an information and summons which contained charges for parking related offences and using abusive language contrary, to the Road Traffic Act 1961 and the Local Government Act 1999.

Decision

Norman Waterhouse represented the Council in proceedings in the Adelaide Magistrates Court.

The matter was listed in Court on two occasions where the Defendant maintained a plea of not guilty. On 20 August 2020, Magistrate Dixon was listed to hear the trial in this matter however, at this time, the Defendant admitted guilt to two counts on the information.

Magistrate Dixon heard submissions from the prosecution that the Defendant had behaved appallingly in committing the offences and displayed complete denial and arrogance in all dealings with the Council. The Defendant admitted in a written apology to the Officer that “no one should feel at risk when working” and was embarrassed in the manner he conducted himself that day.

His Honour accepted the Defendant was having a bad day, nevertheless he advised the Defendant his behaviour was completely inappropriate. His Honour stated the matter could have been resolved quickly and cheaply had the Defendant swallowed his pride by paying the expiation notice in relation to the alleged no-stopping offence or, at a minimum, pleaded guilty to the charges at the first mention.

The Defendant was fined $300 for the abusive language, $150 for the parking offence and ordered to pay victims of crime levies of $320 and costs to the Council exceeding $3,200.

Take Home Message

This case reinforces the legislative mechanisms available to councils to protect authorised officers from abusive, threatening or insulting language. The Court has, in this matter, considered the right, and protection, of an authorised officer to work in a safe environment, free of abuse, outweighs the concept of someone simply having a ‘bad day’.

For more specific information on any of the material contained in this article please contact Paul Kelly on +61 8 8210 1248 or pkelly@normans.com.au or Dale Mazzachi on +61 8 8210 1221 or dmazzachi@normans.com.au or Viviana Paradiso on +61 8 8210 1292 or vparadiso@normans.com.au.

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