U-turn traffic cop guilty in moped case

ANTHONY BRIDGMAN: Was disqualified for a U-turn performed on a narrow stretch of road which caused an accident that injured two motorcyclists.
COLIN SMITH/Nelson Mail
ANTHONY BRIDGMAN: Was disqualified for a U-turn performed on a narrow stretch of road which caused an accident that injured two motorcyclists.

A former policeman at the centre of a high profile police U-turn case has been found guilty of driving while disqualified, when his case that the moped he was riding was a bicycle failed.

Anthony Dale Bridgman was caught riding a moped in September last year. The former Blenheim traffic police officer was disqualified from driving at the time after causing a crash with two motorcyclists when he attempted a U-turn in his patrol car on a narrow gorge road in 2008.

Judge Geoffrey Ellis returned his guilty verdict at the Blenheim District Court on Tuesday after a defended hearing in July. He ruled that a moped is not a bicycle and cannot be used to circumvent driving bans.

MOPED: Bridgman argued the moped was a form of bicycle, yet the pedals weren't fitted when he was stopped.
MOPED: Bridgman argued the moped was a form of bicycle, yet the pedals weren't fitted when he was stopped.

Although a sentencing date has not been set, Judge Ellis said in his decision he would "impose a small fine" and order him to pay court costs, but Bridgman would not be disqualified from driving further.

Bridgman would also be convicted and discharged for failing to display a current licence if police amended the original charge of driving an unregistered vehicle.

In May 29, 2009, Bridgman was found guilty of two charges of dangerous driving causing injury in the Buller Gorge in 2007.

U-TURN: The scene of the crash in the Buller Gorge in 2007.
MARION VAN DIJK/Nelson Mail
U-TURN: The scene of the crash in the Buller Gorge in 2007.

He was ordered to pay $60,000 reparation to the two injured motorcyclists and to do 100 hours of community work.

His patrol car was hit by Wellington motorcyclists Brent Russell, 58, and Marty Collins, 52, as he was making a three-point turn in the gorge to pursue a speeding motorcyclist.

The judge said Bridgman made a gross error of judgment in deciding to turn across the narrow road.

He retired from the police after 35 years service in 2008.

The latest charge was laid in September last year when police stopped him riding a motorised scooter on Alabama Rd about 7.30am.

Defence lawyer Mike Hardy-Jones argued that what Bridgman was riding was a vehicle classed by the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) as a type of bicycle and he therefore did not need a licence or to be registered.

Senior Constable Roger Ewers, of Nelson, gave evidence that Bridgman was adamant he had done the proper checks on the bike and did not need a licence.

Bridgman told police he used it to drive the seven kilometres to work as a dry goods storeman at a vineyard.

Hardy-Jones said the vehicle was a "power-assisted pedal cycle", which was part of the definition of a bicycle under LTSA rules.

At the hearing a distributor in Nelson who sold the scooter to Bridgman described the machine as an "electric bicycle" and believed the importer ordered the model with a smaller engine to comply with LTSA regulations.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Steve Frost, of Blenheim, said the vehicle was classified as a moped because the main source of power was the motor, not human power.

Pedals could be fitted but when Bridgman was stopped these were stored in a compartment.

Judge Ellis suggested the hearing was a test case in relation to the Ezi-Rider scooter Bridgman was riding, however other cases involving similar vehicles had reached the same verdict.

The Marlborough Express