Newtown: a 'bustling, cosmopolitan suburb'
A High Court judge has allowed a man's appeal against a Newtown traffic offence in a judgment that reflects in the charms of the popular inner-city suburb.
In a decision peppered with literary flourishes, Justice Stephen Kos describes Newtown as ''a bustling cosmopolitan suburb of Wellington'' and writes that ''its main street, Riddiford Street, is a noisy hubbub of activity as cars pass back and forth and pedestrians take their chances".
It was along Riddiford Street that Mangal Singh Manhaas was travelling on November 16 when Sergeant Bergh headed towards him on his motorcycle, looking for motorists not using seatbelts.
Mr Manhaas was convicted for pulling out in front of the policeman and forcing him to make an emergency stop.
Justice Kos said Mr Manhaas was looking for Wilson Street, a side road on his right as he drove north.
''In the centre of Riddiford Street is a median area in which vehicles turning into Wilson Street may pause. There is a helpful sign pointing out Wilson Street, a tree, a small hedge, a pedestrian refuge and an elegant lamp post. All in the middle of the street.''
The two men were the only witnesses who gave evidence and both had completely ''irreconcilable'' accounts.
While Mr Manhaas said he saw Mr Bergh travelling towards him, he said the policeman's motorcycle moved right, to the middle of the road and he lost sight of it behind the tree in the median area. Sergeant Bergh denied this and said that after stopping suddenly to avoid Mr Manhaas, he followed him into Wilson Street where he admitted that he had not seen him.
Mr Manhaas was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $150 and court costs of $132.89.
Justice Kos said whether or not Mr Manhaas made ''an unlawful turn, it is clear that the Justices have made a wrong turn.''
He said given the differing accounts, a conviction could only have happened if the Mr Manhaas' evidence was not believed, though this was never said.
''That conclusion was necessary to find the charge proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is perhaps what the Justices intended, but it needed to be said.''
The proceeding is remitted to the District Court for rehearing.
- The Dominion Post
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