02 December 2008

How to annoy pilgrims

A New South Wales motorist, Ian Bryce, has been fined for erecting a transparent box atop his car containing a mannequin dressed as the Pope, which he drove to the Catholic World Youth Day in Sydney earlier this year as a form of protest. Police charged him with ‘having a roof ornament likely to distract motorists’, after quite a bit of deliberation:

The State Government had passed laws to give police extraordinary powers to arrest and fine people for "creating annoyance" to pilgrims during World Youth Day. However parts of these laws were overturned by the Federal Court following widespread protest. Bryce's legal representatives from the NSW Council for Civil Liberties yesterday told the Downing Centre Local Court that the case could not proceed until police provided further details of the charges.

Outside court his lawyer, Stephen Blanks, said the charge did not seem "particularly appropriate" given the condition in which police found the car. "The police are being particularly intelligent in trying to find a way to prosecute Mr Bryce," he said. Bryce said police had detained his Popemobile for about an hour "going through a range of possible charges on the radio to headquarters. I was very surprised [by the charge] because I thought that all advertising is designed to distract.

I wonder what the correct response is when a policeman tells you that you've done something wrong but then takes an hour to work out what law you've broken.

- Sydney Morning Herald, 2 December 2008

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