Republic of Moreland

January 23, 2007

Car ‘accident’ by choice

Filed under: Coburg,crime,Fawkner,Moreland Road — Kath @ 7:08 pm

I’m not a dobber. I don’t believe in dobbing. Not really. But I just rang the police to dob in a motorist.

Little one and I were in the car, stopped at Moreland Road’s pedestrian lights as they turned red. A woman walked in front of our car towards Moreland hospital.

We were stationary, in the right lane. Just getting to the last verse of a Wiggles tune (Calling all Cows, if you must know), when I glanced at my rear-view mirror and saw a black car speeding towards the rear of mine. It didn’t look as if he’d stop, and the safety of Little One was foremost in my mind. Just as my adrenal glands kicked a few nasty words out of my mouth, the driver swerved, overtaking me on the left, running the red lights, and missing the pedestrian by a millihair.

That poor pedestrian. She was probably an outpatient. Not only was she addled by the near-miss, but she jumped out of her skin a second time when I rammed the horn. I wasn’t ramming it at her, but at the driver who’d almost killed her.

As fate would have it, the driver screeched to a halt at the railway gates ahead, so I was able to take down his details. (I’m very, very tempted to publish them here.) When the lights changed I cruised next to him and glared. He’d just lit up a fag, and didn’t seem to notice the mayhem he’d caused.

I’d heard about motorists being dobbed in under anti-hooning laws, but when I rang Fawkner police, they said there was nothing they could do about it, as they themselves didn’t witness the near-hit.

Two things about this. Firstly, a citizen is hardly going to go to the time, trouble and (modest) expense of making a report without good reason. My eyewitness is as good as any cop’s (and in the case of some public events, where all manner of nonsense is told through the police media unit, better). I haven’t heard of vexatious hoon reporting, and besides, if it was done in mischief, they had my details.

The second thing is this. As it was a civil offence, I had no power to make a citizen’s arrest. I’ve actually never heard of anyone making a citizen’s arrest, even for a criminal offence. (Not one that’s uttered soberly, anyway.) But it should have been a criminal offence. The motorist speeding toward the rear of my car threatened Little One’s safety. Then he threatened the life of a pedestrian. Another few centimetres and it could’ve been manslaughter.

I understand how problematic it could be if every citizen’s police report resulted in legal action. But consider this. Many years ago I was working on a project with the Law Reform Commission. Someone — the police commissioner, if I remember right — made an appeal for journalists not to call collisions “accidents”. It’s no ‘accident’, he said, when people drive badly or speed. Sure, in certain situations ‘accidents’ happen, but the vast majority of collisions can be avoided by safe driving. I’m no fan of zero-tolerance Laura Norder, but dangerous driving, in my mind, is one of the few crimes that boils down solely to individual choice — not to social circumstance. Unlike parking mishaps, it’s a choice that doesn’t cause inconvenience, but assault and fatality. So this choice should be a criminal offence, not a civil one. And in these cases a citizen’s testimony made in good faith should be taken as seriously as any law enforcer’s.



  1. Publish the malaka’s license number, GoTA. Do it for The Gipper.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — January 23, 2007 @ 9:13 pm | Reply

  2. The police response and explanation seems inadequate to me. I thought you could report cars emitting excessive exhaust fumes – even people dropping litter from cars. I could be wrong. This issue is far more serious. No doubt, they’d have no chance of charging the driver but you’d hope in a case like this that they’d have a car in the area to find and check the offenders vehicle, licence details etc. and offer the driver a warning at least.

    I’d bet if an off-duty cop saw it, they’d have a car over there in a flash.

    Comment by leonaaardo — January 24, 2007 @ 9:05 am | Reply

  3. It seems that when cars are used as weapons, it’s a civil offence to scare the crap out of someone and threaten people’s lives. When a knife is used, THAT’s a criminal offence.

    I’ve never heard of anyone making a citizen’s arrest, either. Has anyone?

    Comment by Chloe — January 24, 2007 @ 9:34 am | Reply

  4. From memory, one can make a citizen’s arrest only for a criminal offence, and only when the offender is in the act of committing it or there is absolutely no doubt about their guilt. You can’t (again from memory) arrest someone for misdemeanours or traffic violations. And only the police are allowed to arrest on reasonable suspicion.

    All this from high school legal studies. Anyone with fresher and more reliable information?

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — January 24, 2007 @ 9:40 am | Reply

  5. publish! publish! publish!

    Comment by Letters — January 24, 2007 @ 9:55 am | Reply

  6. Thanks, Bane and Letters, for your vote to publish the hoon’s details. I might if it’s legal. I’ve emailed a couple of lawyerly fellows I know and asked them to comment. Still, this would be trial by blog, wouldn’t it, and I don’t know how comfortable I am with that notion.

    I’m not up-to-date on citizen’s arrests, either, Bane. I once witnessed police violence against a citizen, and I’ve been wondering ever since if, in instances like these, can one make a citizen’s arrest of an officer on duty? If so, in this circumstance, if the officer would ignore the arrest, could they be charged with resisting arrest? (A digression…)

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — January 24, 2007 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  7. It’s remarkable that the issues surrounding a citizen’s right to arrest evildoers (nyuk!) are not taught in schools as part of the regular curriculum. As I say, it was only in high school legal studies (an optional subject) that I learnt anything about it at all, and that was 20 years ago in Quince Land.

    Is it perhaps that the cops want the monopoly on this power? Or just more general apathy about civic responsibilities? It’d be excellent to place corrupt politicians under citizen’s arrest, for example… You’d have to catch them bang-to-rights, of course.

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — January 24, 2007 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

  8. I say “stuff em”. Drive like a fool means you probably are one and therefore all fools should be outed. Clean the streets of idiots.

    Comment by Max Franc — January 27, 2007 @ 5:27 pm | Reply

  9. Just heard from my lawyerish friend. Apparently citizens’ arrests can be tricky, because you can be done for unlawful imprisonment if they prove unwarranted. He’d never heard of one being made. I’m going to look into this sometime.

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — January 28, 2007 @ 11:40 pm | Reply

  10. Unlawful imprisonment? Surely not. Unlawful arrest, perhaps. Unlawful imprisonment would surely have to entail some sort of detention, like the starving malakas I keep in my cellar. They’re still trying to text for help, the poor bastards, unaware that their cells are encased with lead…

    Comment by Bane of Malakas — January 29, 2007 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  11. Check this out. I always knew ‘motorists’ were an inherently suspect lot, and given to extremism. This proves it. Just goes to show that it’s a slippery slope from rev-head to terrorist. All motorists should be interned as soon as possible. I hope our government is alive to this threat, and will move against these fanatics with all necessary speed and force before the same happens here.

    UK letter bombs may be from extremist drivers

    February 9, 2007

    THE British Government has issued warnings to the public in response to a series of letter bomb attacks across the country.

    The latest target, the vehicle licensing centre in Swansea, Wales, was seen as further indication that the campaign could be the work of an extremist motorists’ group or individual, possibly “payback” for the Government’s road policies.

    Seven bombs have been sent in the past three weeks, causing injuries that so far are minor.

    Home Secretary John Reid said the bombings were a cause for concern and Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his sympathy for those injured.

    The hunt for the culprits is being led by the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, who said a “very substantial investigation” involved several police forces.

    A vehicle licensing centre office worker was treated for cuts after the bomb went off in her hand.

    “I was shaken, shocked and frightened,” she said. “Everybody started running around me, but I didn’t really know what had happened.”

    The devices are in padded mailing bags, and contain “pyrotechnic” material, similar to that used for making fireworks. Police believe the intent is to alarm rather than kill.


    Comment by Bane of Malakas — February 9, 2007 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  12. Heh! Bane, you.

    Why haven’t ORDINARY AUSTRALIAN MOTORISTS distanced themselves from this extremism? Why has the RACV been silent on this issue? I’ll tell you why: they’re soft on motoring terrorism.

    (Don’t you love the Brit’s mastery of understatement? “Home Secretary John Reid said the bombings were a cause for concern”.)

    Comment by Girl on The Avenue — February 9, 2007 @ 10:00 am | Reply

  13. Post the licence plate, let everyone know who this idiot is.

    Comment by Local — March 3, 2008 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

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