EXCLUSIVE: WA POLICE will withdraw a $250 fine imposed on Swan Valley tourist operator Ross Gundry for using a mobile phone while driving a horse and wagon.
Assistant Commissioner Gary Budge, of Specialist Enforcement and Operations, said this morning while the Road Traffic Act was clear in its definition of a vehicle WA Police had reviewed the circumstances and decided “a caution could have been issued in the first instance.”
“As a result, the infringement will be withdrawn,” Assistant Commissioner Budge said.
The move came following detailed behind-the-scenes discussions between WA Police, Police Minister Liza Harvey and State Parliamentarians this week.
Ms Harvey said in a statement: “Any decision to withdraw an infringement is a decision for WA Police to make.”
Frank Alban, the Member for Swan Hills, also took up the matter with his State Government colleagues on Mr Gundry’s behalf.
Mr Gundry had already decided he would contest the fine in court.
The case would not have been without precedent.
In May, 2003, Melbourne tourist and horse-drawn cart operator Dean Crichton was fined by Victoria police for talking on his mobile phone while behind the reins. He contested the charge in the Magistrates Court, where it was quickly dismissed.
Magistrate Frank Jones described the charge as “trivial.”
“Technically you are guilty of the offence, but a horse and cart brings character to the streets,” Mr Jones said.
The magistrate told Mr Crichton: “The sooner you get back on your horse and cart and get the tourist dollar circulating in Melbourne again, the better.”
Assistant Commissioner Budge said in a statement it remains an offence to use a mobile phone when in control of a vehicle and the Road Traffic Act is clear that the definition of a vehicle includes “an animal being driven or ridden”.
“All persons should recognise that being on a road demands full concentration and in this particular matter there were also passengers on the wagon,” he said.
“The infringement in this case was properly issued by the officer in accordance with current legislation.
“WA Police has since reviewed the circumstances and decided that a caution could also have been issued in the first instance. As a result, the infringement will be withdrawn.
“The discretion afforded on this occasion will not, however, extend to any future infringement.”