Sunday, April 20, 2008


Human opinion is scarcely anything more than the history of human errors.
— Voltaire

The Hon. Iron Bar Tuckey is refusing to pay a speeding fine given to him by the cops for allegedly travelling at 123 km/h in a 110km/h zone on Albany Highway last year. Mr Tuckey claims his cruise control was set when police clocked him 13km/h over the limit, and intends to represent himself in a not-guilty plea before the courts later this year. Go Wilson.

The Albany Advertiser is lambasting Mr Tuckey, as it does quite routinely, and in an article on Tuckey's stand quotes local member Peter Watson MLA saying it was "unbelievable" that someone in such a senior position would quibble over a speeding fine.

"I think most Australians when they get a speeding fine, they cop it on the chin and pay up," Mr Watson said.

Really? Well i guess i am just not "most Australians". Whenever i get a fine that i believe is unfair or wrong, i don't simply "pay up". Au contraire, bébé. I challenge it with a polite letter stating my side of the story and then - if need be - represent myself in the courts and fight it. Yet somehow, according to the media, a politician questioning a fine doled out by the police will tear at the very fabric of our society:

"Someone with such a high profile saying the police are wrong and taking up valuable police time is very disappointing," Mr Watson said.

So, according to Mr Watson, should the police make a mistake (for instance, when they wrongly convicted Andrew Mallard of murder) the accused should just shut up, cop it on the chin, and stop wasting valuable police time for fear of disappointing the community. The sheer pigheaded righteousness of the West Australian police force never fails to leave me utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes quite literally. I have had occasion to come up against its brutal methodology in the past, and it is a difficult one to beat. If you question their version of events, expect to be bullied and to have even more charges laid against you.

A simple example - i won't go into firearm, theft and assault charges for the moment - i was stopped on the highway by police using a radar gun, and booked for doing a couple of km/h over the limit. Since all measuring equipment is subject to some degree of inaccuracy, i asked what the degree of error was on their radar equipment. The officer, true to form, became extremely belligerent.

(To clarify - a degree of error does not imply that the instrument or operator is wrong or stupid - it is just a basic physical property inherent in all measuring equipment. A millimetre ruler, for example, is generally taken to have a degree of accuracy of +/- 0.5mm. Scientists invariably include a degree of error in all their measurements.)

"There is no degree of error," says the traffic cop.
"All measurements have a degree of error," i say.
"There is no degree of error," the cop repeats. "This radar gun is 100 per cent accurate."

My goodness. No doubt the next thing the WA Police force will be equipped with will be perpetual motion machines.

Anyway, back to the Wilson saga. From the Advertiser:

Great Southern police district Superintendent Ross Tomasini said it was extremely rare for people to contest speeding fines in the courts, and said he stood by the accuracy of their radar equipment.
"It seems to me to be a bad message to be putting out when a lot of road safety issues are on the table at the moment," Supt Tomasini said.
"The equipment is all tested and calibrated every time they are used, and I can say with 100 per cent certainty there is no mistake in the equipment, and I have absolute confidence in the Williams officers who use the equipment," he said.

People who are 100 per cent certain of anything invariably terrify me. Apart from giving us yet another shining example of the absolutist world view of our police force, and his unquestioning faith in the infallibility of his officers, Supt Tomasini presents us with another, singularly strange, attitude. What is important is not a person's innocence or guilt, but what message they are putting out.

"I think he is setting a pretty poor example to the community as a whole." - Supt Tomasini.

Just like those damn annoying journalists, like Walkley award winner Estelle Blackburn, who go around assuming that police may not, in fact, be 100 per cent infallible and can sometimes make mistakes. What a bad message to be sending to our community. Blackburn’s work exposed an injustice which led to the 2002 and 2005 exonerations of two men convicted of Perth killings in the 60s, men who were, so it seemed, guilty "beyond reasonable doubt". Uh huh.

More recently, an inquiry was conducted into WA Police force following yet another overturned conviction. From The Australian, August 2, 2007, "Mallard police accused":

Senior West Australian police changed witness statements, deleted sections of expert reports and made a startling omission in a prosecution briefing in the murder investigation that jailed Andrew Mallard for a crime he did not commit.

Changed witness statements. Deleted sections of expert reports. But who are we, the citizens, to question the veracity of statements made by officers of the WA police force? Who are we to waste valuable police time?

The Nerve is not obsessively preoccupied with sending the "right message" to the community. There are totalitarian states and instruments of government propaganda far better equipped to deal with these concerns than is this humble blog. Sorry about that.


Anonymous said...

D'yer reckon Voltaire would defend his right to smack other people about the head with metal sticks?
How was the opening, dude?

Mark Roy said...

I'm not sure what Voltaire said about playing hockey with people's heads ... the exhibition opening was ok, in that i didn't get drunk and disgrace myself. And a Fremantle hippy took Wilson to task for signing off on the Regional Forests Agreement. Got to love stirring the pot. "The only thing old growth forests are good for is furniture" - Iron Bar Tuckey