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.