Monday, 23 June 2008

Victory - Salty Dog

Damn, bugger, exclamation - is there a more polite expletive? WE WON AGAIN. Yet another council has backed down to our challenge of their $330 fine for a dog 'under effective control' on a beach in Pittwater Council, Northern Beaches, Sydney. Let's paint this picture for those of you who might believe the legality of all the 'no dogs' signs, or think we should all just do as we are told. This is the typical scenario for the court challenges we have won by verdict or withdrawal.
  • The beach was empty
  • Rarely, but if not an empty beach our member was no where near the patrolled or swimming areas.

  • The dog is obedience trained.

  • Owner picks up, has control of dog.

  • The beach is walk (or boat) in access only, or at least 1/2 km from a car park
  • Member is below the high tide mark.

  • The weather can be foul, the surf rough or it is 7.30 in the morning - point being there is ROOM TO SHARE.

Remember that Pittwater is the council that refused to withdraw the penalty for 'dog on beach' when getting out of a boat (with minder) and going to a WATER ACCESS ONLY property. The magistrate made comments that made us smile; in other words - doesn't council have something better to do?

N.B.: We are not anti-ranger, which is why we lobby state and federal government more than the 700 plus local governments. 'Just doing my job' is often the plain truth in the matter. What many people don't know is that rangers have a code of conduct, local councils have a performance measure called 'reducing complaints' (a crazy notion for a profit-based business) and just because a person in uniform say something, they may not know the law any better than you.

Our legal challenges are not against the rangers who issue the fines in the first place, it's the Council management that insists on taking these cases before a magistrate. So many of our challenges have been dropped by local government just two days before the hearing when there has been 6-8 months to negotiate. OK for us, but really hard on the member who isn't aware of the absolute lack of common sense in these legal challenges and experiences extreme stress from the process. The Sudoku playing jurors prompted a brilliant response to the million dollar court case that was dropped due to their Sudoku playing: cap the lawyers pay at $188/day (like the jurors) and see how quickly cases get through the court.

Quote of the day: "lacking in substance". This means that your local government squanders your rates because they have someone who complains about you walking your dog on the beach in the morning and they HAVE to respond, because the law and common scents are, well, different.

We have not yet lost a challenge with members. The problem is we WANT to lose to take matters into the higher courts where precedent is set. Our next court date is with Warringah Council regarding jurisdiction on the beach; why not join us for the continuation and hopefully conclusion of a 'dog on beach' that has taken up 18 months of court time. Downing Centre Local court, 19th of Sept. in Sydney CBD. Email for details.