Judge shocked at biker's bridge stunt
A judge was "astounded" at the the actions of a Hamilton motorcyclist who performed a daring stunt on top of the Fairfield Bridge, saying such cases needed to be dealt with harshly to prevent copycats.
Jonathan "Carver" Bennett, the 24-year-old leader of the Mormon Few Stunt Crew and former Motortimes columnist, appeared in the Hamilton District Court on Thursday charged with dangerous driving.
Bennett came to court prepared to plead guilty to the charge, but upheld his not guilty plea after Judge Robert Spear expressed extreme concern over his actions. The case has now been adjourned until May for a defended hearing.
Arguments over whether Fairfield Bridge was legally a road would be the main topic of contention.
A summary of undisputed facts handed to Judge Spear detailed Bennett's actions on August 22, last year, which were filmed on a helmet camera and by friends and later posted on YouTube.
Bennett rode over the arches of the bridge on his 250cc 100-kilogram Beta Techno trials bike before riding along the footpath. The arches are 20 metres above water at their highest point and 6m above the road.
The stunt prompted numerous calls to police from concerned members of the public and led to Bennett being charged.
Judge Spear said Thursday was the first time he'd heard of the stunt. "I'm astounded anyone would attempt this." He conceded that many people might see the "lighter side" of Bennett's action. However, the court had to emphasise the danger and enforce a penalty that would deter anyone else from "pranks of this nature".
Defence counsel Jim Galt said Bennett accepted the facts, but asked the judge to avoid imposing a period of disqualification from driving which would severely affect his job. Bennett was prepared to pay a higher financial penalty as a "trade-off".
"I'm not trading with anyone," Judge Spear told Mr Galt. "I would not avoid the disqualification. Really it's a question to whether I go above the minimum disqualification. My concern is that if I don't act firmly it might be seen as encouraging of others to do a similar thing for entertainment factors and I'm not going to allow that."
Police prosecutor Eilidh Hook said Bennett could apply for a limited licence for work, but would still be required to have a mandatory one-month stand-down period. Mr Galt said Bennett would maintain his not guilty plea and asked for a defended hearing.