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Officers under fire for way they dealt with helmetless teen

Two police officers in Australia dealt with a teenage cyclist they discovered riding without a helmet, in contravention of state laws, by deflating his bike’s tyres so he couldn’t ride it, leaving him stranded three kilometres from home.

The incident took place on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and the officers’ behaviour has come under particular criticism because it took place not far from where a 13-year-old boy, Daniel Morcombe, went missing, presumed abducted, in 2003. He has never been found.

That case is back in the news due to a coroner’s inquest currently being held into Daniel’s disappearance, and Anne Dyer, the mother of teenage cyclist Josh Maday, said that while her son had been wrong not to wear a helmet, that didn’t excuse the officers’ action.

She revealed that her son’s mobile phone was out of credit and that he had had to push his bike back home, telling the Sunshine Coast Daily: “It’s the first time he’s ever been pulled over and I understand the importance of helmets and I tell him to wear it all the time.

“He didn’t have it on him and there’s no excuse for that but they forced him to let the tyres down and wouldn’t let him go any further,” she continued.

“With the whole Daniel Morcombe case in the air you’d think they wouldn’t just leave him on the side of the road.

“I’ve heard of kids getting a warning and with the bike laws, as a general rule, they’re supposed to give a warning, caution and then fine,” she added.

“I can understand them giving him a fine but I’ve never heard of a police officer deflating tyres.

“It’s not uncommon for kids to ride around without a helmet but it’s like they were on a mission that afternoon and used him as an example.”

Assistant Police Commissioner Ross Barnett acknowledged that the officers could have dealt with the situation better. He admitted that they had been trying to avoid having to fine the teenager, and instead decided to let his tyres down and leave him to find his way home.

“But on reflection they probably could have done something a little bit differently,” he told ABC Radio.

He added that the officers had also gone to Josh’s house to let his mother know what had happened, but she wasn’t in. Instead, they left a card asking her to contact them with one of his siblings.

Mr Barnett conceded that the officers could have taken the youngster home with his bicycle, saying, “That certainly was an option that perhaps on reflection might have been a better course.”

He added that police understood community concerns regarding the safety of children in the light of Daniel Morcombe’s disappearance, saying: “All the police are very, very acutely aware of the community sensitivity in that area.”

Terry O’Gorman, vice president of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, has said that he pans to lodge a complaint regarding the episode with the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

“The police behaviour is appalling and the response of the Queensland Police Service is just as bad,” he claimed. “This is yet another instance of police failing to do their job.”
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

31 comments

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 6 years ago
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I used to think of Australia being a liberal and relaxed country, but in many ways it is actually very conservative (eg: imminent country wide government internet filter). There is very little discussion about getting their compulsory helmet laws repealed, even amongst bicycle advocacy organisations such as Bicycle Victoria (but it is partially state funded, so is not independent). The fine for not wearing a helmet in Victoria is now $146, and for running a red light is $292.

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 6 years ago
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"There is very little discussion about getting their compulsory helmet laws repealed"

That's because it's widely accepted as sensible. I commute every day and 99% comply, but in the last two years I've seen police checking helmets once and you could if you wanted to ride around for years without getting booked. So the compliance levels are not because of heavy-handed police enforcement.

And do you wear a seat-belt in your car? And that's a compulsory law? And a helmet on your motor bike? And that's compulsory? And you accept those as legitimate exercises of government legislative power? So how is legislating for bike helmets any different?

And frankly any country where people accept not being able to use hairdryers in their bathrooms and have to have a licence to watch television is not in a position to be criticising anyone about accepting needless regulation.

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t1mmyb [87 posts] 6 years ago
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"Let me save you from danger, son, by placing you in more danger!"

Utterly screwed up.

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Hamster [101 posts] 6 years ago
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Sakurashinmachi wrote:

"There is very little discussion about getting their compulsory helmet laws repealed"

That's because it's widely accepted as sensible.

Only if you don't base it on any reputable research. The scientific peer reviewed case for compulsory cycle helmet use is not proven unlike the seatbelt and motorbike helmet cases.
If I remember correctly the skull has a higher rated crash resistance than a cycle helmet.

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BigDummy [314 posts] 6 years ago
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There are several lessons to be drawn from this, but one of them is "always carry a pump".

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dave atkinson [6258 posts] 6 years ago
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BigDummy wrote:

There are several lessons to be drawn from this, but one of them is "always carry a pump".

lol

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thereverent [432 posts] 6 years ago
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I wonder in what other circumstances would the Australian Police leave a minor with only the option to walk two miles home?
No common sense going on here.

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Monstermunch [7 posts] 6 years ago
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Are Australian police really entitled to both find someone guilty of an offence, and set the punishment?
Deflating his tyres seems like a cruel and unusual punishment, in contravention of A.5 of the universal deceleration of human rights. This punishment is simply for not subscribing to the state imposed religion of thinking a bit of polystyrene will prevent death.
What are the punishments for more serious crimes?

Would the police have deflated a motorists tyres if the driver had not been wearing a seat belt?  19

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37monkey [138 posts] 6 years ago
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It's only 3kms and I'll bet he won't forget his helmet again, as for abduction, why is it less likely on a bike?, I think the police used an appropriate punishment for the law that was broken, if only the police in this country were allowed to use their own judgement more, there would be less of them filling in paperwork and more catching mobile phone using motorists ect.
Storm in a tea cup, bet the Mother is after some sort of compensation.

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stevboss [19 posts] 6 years ago
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Sakurashinmachi wrote:

"And frankly any country where people accept not being able to use hairdryers in their bathrooms and have to have a licence to watch television is not in a position to be criticising anyone about accepting needless regulation.

Sakurashinmachi - 'The Hairdryers and Bathrooms Act, Prohibition (as amended 1987)' has saved countless lives in the UK.

And I think you mis-understand the exact nature of what a TV licence is.

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jobysp [143 posts] 6 years ago
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BigDummy wrote:

There are several lessons to be drawn from this, but one of them is "always carry a pump".

Brilliant!

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 6 years ago
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Sakurashinmachi wrote:

"There is very little discussion about getting their compulsory helmet laws repealed"

That's because it's widely accepted as sensible. I commute every day and 99% comply, but in the last two years I've seen police checking helmets once and you could if you wanted to ride around for years without getting booked. So the compliance levels are not because of heavy-handed police enforcement.

6600 cyclists fined in Victoria in 2009 for not wearing a helmet according to this article in The Age. That sounds heavy handed to me. This wouldn't be met with such bovine acceptance in the UK!

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abudhabiChris [692 posts] 6 years ago
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Cat1, you forgot to mention they hate any sort of criticism or even the mildest implication that they might have got something wrong - helmets being only one example.

Queensland is like their deep south, but without the culture. The kid was lucky the cops didn't sell him into a crack and prostitution ring.

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jova54 [667 posts] 6 years ago
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37monkey wrote:

It's only 3kms and I'll bet he won't forget his helmet again, as for abduction, why is it less likely on a bike?, I think the police used an appropriate punishment for the law that was broken, if only the police in this country were allowed to use their own judgement more, there would be less of them filling in paperwork and more catching mobile phone using motorists ect.

The only person at risk here was the teenager,if there is any risk from not wearing a helmet, and he was put at more risk by the actions of the two coppers. I would doubt very much that an approved punishment for not wearing a helmet is letting down a person's tyres, but then I don't live in Australia and I can cycle with or without a helmet if I want to.

If a driver is using a mobile phone whilst driving they put themselves and countless others at risk by their selfish actions, hardly a sensible comparison.

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giff77 [1258 posts] 6 years ago
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i am hoping that the two peelers were given a right royal bollicking for neglecting their duty of care and FORCING a minor into a situation of walking home with a bike put out of action! A more appropriate stance would have been a lecture or a lift home in the squad car!

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OldRidgeback [2658 posts] 6 years ago
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Two very dimwitted cops if you ask me.

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

6600 cyclists fined in Victoria in 2009 for not wearing a helmet according to this article in The Age. That sounds heavy handed to me. This wouldn't be met with such bovine acceptance in the UK!

Victoria has a population of 5.5 million and somewhere around a quarter of a million bikes are sold here annually, so 6600 fines is not a huge number. And it's not as if the people fined wouldn't've known that not wearing a helmet (or passing a stopped tram) was illegal. It's the same way few of the regular commuters I speak to have any sympathy for people booked for jumping red lights.

I get the feeling that in the UK the helmet issue is a bit like banning plastic bags - it gives people the feeling that they're dealing with an issue (for example, global warming) when it's really just an irrelevancy (frankly you're not going to save the world by turning down a plastic bag if you've driven to the supermarket and it's running three-phase airconditioning and you're buying imported food). And in terms of "bovine acceptance", have a look at the UK generally - and I speak from experience since I used to live in London - surveillance cameras everywhere, postcode lottery for schools and health-care, bizarre shopping hours and 19th century infrastructure (actually, older than that for the water mains). And not a peep of protest - or did I miss a populist uprising when I lived there?

(And to be fair, I have a lot of affection for the UK and London, but it was a constant wonder that people put up with the stuff they had to in their daily lives.)

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jezzzer [329 posts] 6 years ago
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Hamster wrote:

If I remember correctly the skull has a higher rated crash resistance than a cycle helmet.

Uh, right. So, say, your skull breaks in a 23mph impact, whereas your helmet would be broken by a 20mph impact (I'm inventing the figures to go along with your somewhat specious theory).

So I have a crash, with a helmet, and it breaks, but in doing so it protects my skull and I live to see another day. How hard is that to understand?

I get the impression that a load of roadies don't get the point of helmets because the sort of riding they do very rarely results in crashes. Riding mountain bikes I have crashed more times that I can remember (including head-first into an over-hanging branch, hard enough to dislocate my shoulder), and it is just plain obvious that doing so while wearing a helmet is gonna hurt you less.

And as a friend of mine recently found out, to his widow's continuing cost, road-based crashes sans helmet can be pretty terminal too.

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pickles [29 posts] 6 years ago
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jezzzer wrote:

Uh, right. So, say, your skull breaks in a 23mph impact, whereas your helmet would be broken by a 20mph impact (I'm inventing the figures to go along with your somewhat specious theory).

Ah, the usual nonsense.

Yes, you are inventing figures, and they are wrong.

Helmets are only designed for impacts up to about 12.5 mph. Any faster than that and the helmet doesn't do you any good. Most of us are travelling faster than that, and certainly are if a car hits us from behind.

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So I have a crash, with a helmet, and it breaks, but in doing so it protects my skull and I live to see another day. How hard is that to understand?

If the helmet breaks in the crash, then it probably hasn't worked. Helmets are supposed to help by reducing the acceleration of the head, cushioning it by crushing the polystyrene filling. If the polystyrene breaks before crushing, then the helmet hasn't done anything to reduce acceleration, but it looks really effective and tells a great story!

Note also that cracked skull does not equal death. In fact the brain injuries that do the most damage don't have to involve blunt force trauma to the head. Helmets could even lead to more types of injury which can lead to very serious brain damage: rotational brain injury. See http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1182.html

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I get the impression that a load of roadies don't get the point of helmets because the sort of riding they do very rarely results in crashes. Riding mountain bikes I have crashed more times that I can remember (including head-first into an over-hanging branch, hard enough to dislocate my shoulder), and it is just plain obvious that doing so while wearing a helmet is gonna hurt you less.

Sounds like helmet wearing might be one of the reasons why you are crashing quite so often. Hitting your head on an overhanging branch while wearing a helmet is a classic risk compensation injury (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation). Perhaps if you hadn't been wearing one you might have paid more attention?

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And as a friend of mine recently found out, to his widow's continuing cost, road-based crashes sans helmet can be pretty terminal too.

Very sad, but was the lack of a helmet really linked to the death? Would you like to try and replicate his injuries wearing a helmet and see what happens?

Helmets didn't save these lives:

http://members.shaw.ca/jtubman/deadhelmet.html

Have a read of http://www.cyclehelmets.org/ also.

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Fish_n_Chips [493 posts] 6 years ago
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So he had to walk home 15 minutes big deal and yeah he should have kept a mini pump or a CO2 cannister hidden lol

Next time the police should just give him a fine.  4

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 6 years ago
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Sakurashinmachi wrote:

I get the feeling that in the UK the helmet issue is a bit like banning plastic bags - it gives people the feeling that they're dealing with an issue (for example, global warming) when it's really just an irrelevancy (frankly you're not going to save the world by turning down a plastic bag if you've driven to the supermarket and it's running three-phase airconditioning and you're buying imported food).

Like banning plastic bags being handed out at supermarket checkouts, making wearing of cycle helmets compulsory really is an irrelevancy, since they only offer minor protection, and you haven't really dealt with the issue of improving safety for cyclists.

What making helmets compulsory does do is to discourage cycling, particularly for the kind of utility cycling for short trips which would otherwise be done by car. The net result is detrimental to the health of the population as a consequence of reduced physical activity.

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blundershot [20 posts] 6 years ago
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Sakurashinmachi
Best not to debate this... You will get no logic from UK cyclist regarding helmets.

Stories like this just feed 2 of their favourite pastimes:
Bashing Oz
Blowing their rebellious horns about helmet laws

Next they will start quoting the discredited and total BS stats from http://www.cyclehelmets.org.. Oh look, they already are... meh

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purplecup [217 posts] 6 years ago
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There's plenty of BS stats on both sides of the argument, blundershot. The widely discredited but oft quoted Thompson, Rivara and Thompson study from 1989 springs to mind. what there isn't is any large scale concensus that cyclists wearing helmets are safer for any given traffic system. Some studies say they are, some say they're not, many don't find any statistically significant difference. My point would be that that if you're going for evidence-based legislation, then helmet compulsion is hard to justify based on the evidence that currently exists. Particularly since the safest cyclists are the ones in countries with the lowest helmet usage.

You're right about Aussie bashing though. We *love* that. Bring on the ashes.

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Cauld Lubter [135 posts] 6 years ago
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Typical heavy-handed Oz copping. A more sour-faced bunch of dour winkers, I've never met.

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blundershot [20 posts] 6 years ago
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purplecup wrote:

My point would be that that if you're going for evidence-based legislation, then helmet compulsion is hard to justify based on the evidence that currently exists. Particularly since the safest cyclists are the ones in countries with the lowest helmet usage.

You're right about Aussie bashing though. We *love* that. Bring on the ashes.

Perhaps... But it still surprises me how much attention our laws get over there. Here in Western Australia it is such a non-issue and I doubt the government would get much support in repealing helmet laws.

As for the Ashes, here is your once in a generation chance to thrash a p**s weak Aussie line up  2

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blundershot [20 posts] 6 years ago
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Cauld Lubter wrote:

Typical heavy-handed Oz copping. A more sour-faced bunch of dour winkers, I've never met.

Could have been worse.. He could have been carrying a backpack in a UK train station...

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pickles [29 posts] 6 years ago
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blundershot wrote:

it still surprises me how much attention our laws get over there. Here in Western Australia it is such a non-issue and I doubt the government would get much support in repealing helmet laws.

No they probably wouldn't. Australia isn't a country known for the intellectually inquisitive, as displayed on these pages.

We do indeed love Aussie-bashing, mainly because in this country it is almost impossible to avoid them and they are almost universally insufferable.

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

What making helmets compulsory does do is to discourage cycling, particularly for the kind of utility cycling for short trips which would otherwise be done by car. The net result is detrimental to the health of the population as a consequence of reduced physical activity.

I was surprised to discover that the basis for the claim that compulsory helmet laws discourage cycling was a study supposedly done in Melbourne: I hadn't noticed any decrease in numbers at the time the law was introduced here. And it is a particularly odd claim given the growth of cycling in Melbourne over the last few years: on my route to work there can be 20 or more cyclists pulled up at each set of traffic lights some mornings - all wearing helmets - so the helmets aren't putting them off. So I checked the report, which is available on Monash Uni's website. In point of fact the only change the report detected at the time was a short-term drop in the number of teenagers riding (but that could have been for any number of reasons, including surveying during school holidays).

So the claim that a significant number of adults in Melbourne stopped riding because of the helmets is wrong and simply not supported by the evidence.

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

No they probably wouldn't. Australia isn't a country known for the intellectually inquisitive, as displayed on these pages.

What's funny about that is that the poster was probably serious: but even Jay Kay recently said of the UK:

"All we talk about is the Beckhams and Jordan. It really is Little Britain. All we get fed from television and magazines is rubbish."

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blundershot [20 posts] 6 years ago
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pickles wrote:

We do indeed love Aussie-bashing, mainly because in this country it is almost impossible to avoid them and they are almost universally insufferable.

I considered flagging this as offensive... but it reinforces my point
thanks

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