from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
The people are getting upset. Naturally. Here is an eloquent example of that, which I got a second or third hand:
“Did anyone know there was a law against leaving your car window open ? Shouldn’t laws be made public knowledge or is the government playing dirty by making absolutely stupid laws and keeping them secret for nothing more than revenue making ? I mean WTF ? When was this law made and why does nobody know about it ? To whoever made this a law ‘ you are the most fucking stupid dumb ass ever and you wont get away with this ! what next ? are you going to make a law to fine those who wear a long sleeve shirt with a pair of shorts or maybe a law to fine the men who wear beards in summer ? ‘ This is not even about whether the officer did or did not measure the gap – there is no need for a law here full stop !!!! “
The necessary outline for overseas readers – In Brisbane, Queensland, twenty-one years old Mr Julian Harris was fined $44 for leaving his car window down a few centimetres on a hot day. He said, “left his car window open only ‘three to four’ centimetres when he was visiting family on Sunday in Brisbane’s north” and “It was 34 degrees so I left the windows down slightly so it wouldn’t be boiling hot for my 3-year-old son when we got back in.”
Mr Harris complained to a Brisbane tabloid, which duly published it. Being a silly season, though for The Courier-Mail that season is endless, many people read and republished the item. For example: “Australian Street Car magazine spokesman Dale Brown said he was astounded at the response to the fine on their Facebook page. Mr Brown said the story reached more than 188 000 people from their page and triggered a range of opinions on the offence.”
Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart responded, “ .. an officer who issued a ticket did a good job and the motorist got off lightly after also parking illegally on the footpath on the wrong side of the road. The law was put in place for a simple reason. It was to stop people breaking into cars stealing things and from stealing the car. …The officer was acting on an intelligence brief in that area that here had been a number of thefts from motor vehicles and unlawful uses.”
From the Queensland Government website:
Secure parked vehicles
Your vehicle must be secure before leaving it parked on a road. A driver is considered to have left the vehicle when he or she is more than 3m from the vehicle. Unless there is somebody 16 years of age or older in the vehicle, before you leave the vehicle, you must:
switch off the engine
apply the parking brake
remove the ignition key
wind up the windows (if possible), however a gap of 5cm or less is acceptable
lock the doors (if possible).
This rule also applies in road-related areas, which includes car parks.
Sections 13 and 213 of the Queensland Road Rules apply.
Yes, it is summer, but still – some important issues have been raised, and since I have nothing better to do…
Firstly – “Ignorantia juris non excusat or ignorantia legis neminem excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law does not excuse” or “ignorance of the law excuses no one”) is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content.
The rationale of the doctrine is that if ignorance were an excuse, a person charged with criminal offenses or a subject of a civil lawsuit would merely claim that he or she is unaware of the law in question to avoid liability, even though the person really does know what the law in question is. Thus, the law imputes knowledge of all laws to all persons within the jurisdiction no matter how transiently. Even though it would be impossible, even for someone with substantial legal training, to be aware of every law in operation in every aspect of a state’s activities, this is the price paid to ensure that willful blindness cannot become the basis of exculpation. …
The doctrine assumes that the law in question has been properly published and distributed, for example, by being printed in a government gazette, made available over the internet, or printed in volumes available for sale to the public at affordable prices.”
The foregoing is from wikipedia but I found no reason to disagree. The State of Queensland has legislated it thus:
CRIMINAL CODE – SECT 22
22 Ignorance of the law—bona fide claim of right
(1) Ignorance of the law does not afford any excuse for an act or omission which would otherwise constitute an offence, unless knowledge of the law by the offender is expressly declared to be an element of the offence.
(2) But a person is not criminally responsible, as for an offence relating to property, for an act done or omitted to be done by the person with respect to any property in the exercise of an honest claim of right and without intention to defraud.
(3) A person is not criminally responsible for an act or omission done or made in contravention of a statutory instrument if, at the time of doing or making it, the statutory instrument was not known to the person and had not been published or otherwise reasonably made available or known to the public or those persons likely to be affected by it.
(4) In this section—
(a) in relation to a statutory instrument that is subordinate legislation—means notify in accordance with section 47 (Notification) of the Statutory Instruments Act 1992; and
(b) in relation to a statutory instrument that is not subordinate legislation—means publish in the gazette.
Secondly, the Acts, regulations, i.e. statutory instruments, are not hidden. They are available via Internet on the government website, and, assuming that yours and the Government’s computers works, Bob is your uncle. Sort of. By accessing the above website you can choose whichever Act your want. It helps if your happen to know the name of that Act. They are listed alphabetically and, for example, under “A” there is 57 of them. Of course, unless you are a saint, you would ignore All Saints Church Lands Act 1924. The good news is that of all twenty six letters of alphabet there is nothing listed under “X” and “Z”. So far.
Assuming you found what you want, you would be faced with another hurdle:
Reproduction of this Legislation
Copyright © State of Queensland
This material is the copyright of the State of Queensland and is licensed from the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel on the condition that no liablity is accepted for any loss claim proceedings demand or cost arising from the use of the material or from any error or omission contained in it. The material is provided for information purposes only.
Users should note that the material is not recognised as the official or authorised version of legislation and is provided solely on the basis that users will take responsibility for verifying its accuracy, completeness and currency.
The official or authorsised versions of Queensland legislation can be found in hard copy versions printed by the Government Printer, available from GOPRINT –
PH: (07) 3246 3399 or 1 800 679 778 for callers outside the Brisbane area
FX: (07) 3246 3534
Although copyright protects the Queensland legislative material made available through this site, the State of Queensland has no objection to this material being reproduced except for commercial purpose...
So, if you really want to be sure, you’ll have to buy “authorsised version”. Otherwise you may find that a hard copy has “four centimetres gap” instead of the “five centimetres’ you so naively based your defence on. The State of Queensland accepts no ‘liablity‘ – can it be held liable?
What if a lawyer reproduces “this material” for his client? Wouldn’t that be a “commercial purpose”? And, to be sure, should I get a hard copy of this “has no objection” statement?
America, but we are very similar:
We obviously regressed somewhat since the Ten Commandments or, for that matter, the Code of Hammurabi. Why is it so? The people, that is some people, want the government to “do something” every time something displeases them. The do-gooders, officious by-standers, malicious mental gnomes, mini-minority spokesmen and other freedom haters (Nicola Roxon and The Green Party spring to mind) push for more and more restrictive legislation. If you happen to be aware of any legislation which gives more freedom to people, let me know.
The governments do not mind – it means more power to the police, more revenue, more donations from the handful of beneficiaries, more subdued subjects (for we are anything but citizens; punters, voters at the election times, teensy weeny Aussie battlers, rednecks, working families, uneducated rabble, yes, but citizens no. The spectre of citoyens et armis makes our rulers choke on their Chardonnay).
Back to those windows and the “secure your vehicle” regulations. My guess is that this is more likely than not a result of lobbying by insurance companies. As has been pointed out to me, if there were not thefts of motor vehicles, or thefts from motor vehicles, the insurance companies would have very hard time to sell you the insurance for that non-existent contingency, which would mean no profit. Too many thefts could pose a similar problem, i.e. less profit, at least for the time the premiums would remain on the same level. At some stage the actuaries worked out what the still profitable incidence of insurable events could be, and other people worked out what is the maximum the ill-informed public will pay for that chimerical peace of mind.
So the government amended the regulations; experts decided 5 centimetres gap will stop a criminal, but 6 cm will not; the police got another little thing to use if they don’t like you, and add to their promotion kill-sheet; the politicians’ superannuation fund gets another boost; some minister’s propaganda hacks will add it to his election leaflet – win-win all around for the people who really matter in our pseudo-democratic system. No, not you, citizen.
After all this – I leave my car windows down only about 3.5 cm (my two fingers), not because of the legislation I was not aware of, and not because I am naïve enough to delude myself it would stop anybody who would really take fancy in my car, but simply to make the life a little bit difficult for the amateur, opportunistic rabble coursing our streets and car parks, and thanks to the prohibition on ‘racial profiling’, immune to any effective surveillance.
Back to the origin of this sorry saga. It used to be that when you felt strongly about the injustice of some traffic ticket, you did not pay the fine and in due course you appeared before the Magistrate. You would swear, say in this instance, that the gap was 4 cm, the police officer would swear that it was 7 cm and the Magistrate would decide on the respective credibility of the testimony. In 90% of cases in favour of the police, of course, but that is beside the point. You had your day in court.
Today you, or rather some people, run to the media, aware that police officers nowadays routinely photograph or video anything even remotely likely to be disputed. Were you to lose in the Magistrates Court, in addition to the original $44 you would be ordered to pay the court cost. A twit to the Courier-Mail is infinitesimally cheaper.
According to the Police Commissioner, three offences were committed by Mr Harris, whose vehicle, “… is parked on the incorrect side of the road. The second is that it’s parked on the footpath. And the third that it doesn’t obey the law in relation to the window being open.”
Personally, I dislike the second offence the most. I often see mothers with prams and invalids in their mobiles forced to manoeuvre onto a busy road, simply because somebody parked on a footpath for his convenience. Yes, I admit, I had done it on occasions, but only when loading or unloading something heavy and there is no other option. I could be wrong, but it would seem that Mr Harris was in no urgency when he decided to visit his relatives. Parking on the footpath just for convenience is a symptom of the “me-generation”.
During my discussions about this matter somebody suggested that the government should better publicise new laws and regulations. Sounds good, but – how many people read the stuff local councils, state governments and the federal one send from time to time to enlighten us? In this article I deliberately included what I considered the absolute minimum of the relevant excerpts from the Queensland Government website. Have you noticed how tedious is it?
In the meantime, if you are not good at estimating distances, be it 5 cm or 3 metres, get yourselves some measuring device. I am sure Chinese are already manufacturing some, always ready to profit from yet another round-eyes’ stupidity.
I almost forgot and it pains me to do this to you, but I feel it is my duty to remind you that before you do anything at all, you also ought to check the Federal legislation…