Mall skater’s $576 fine: is it fair?

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

It all started in the northern end of the new Todd Mall when Marco Formoso (pictured) skated the benches built for skating.

 

When the mall refurbished at a cost of $5m opened, skating was forbidden – or so the police believed who moved skaters on. Then skating was permitted.

 

Then it was forbidden again.

 

Marco skated when skating in the Mall was verboten. His victimless offence – misunderstanding? – cost him a blistering $576.

 

Two town council rangers approached him and demanded, several times apparently, to show them ID. The following is Marco’s account (he is pictured at the skatepark):

 

He says he was plugged in (wearing headphones) and didn’t hear the rangers calling out to him.

 

When he did he had no idea who they were. He asked them to show their ID first. He considered that was his right.

 

One of the rangers replied: “I don’t have to. I am a ranger” and called him stupid.

 

This went on, backwards and forwards, for some time.

 

The police were called. The ranger showed Marco his ID and Marco showed the ranger his ID. Marco thought that was the end of the matter.

 

Some days later he received an infringement notice for “failing to provide details.” (Did the ranger also receive such a notice, one might ask.)

 

A town council source says the ranger’s badge always has to be visible and was attached to his belt.

 

In fact the badge is attached with a retractable string so it can be lifted up and shown without detaching it. Marco says the ranger did not do that.

 

This raises the question: Did the ranger expect Marco to drop to his knees so he could examine the badge?

Fellow skater Frankie Wilson (pictured left) corroborates Marco’s account of the events and so, Marco and Frankie are confident, would three other mates who were present at the confrontation, at least for portions of it (at one point they were talking with the second ranger).

 

Marco, a recent arrival from Melbourne, a city highly friendly towards skateboarders, and prior to the incident not familiar with our council rangers, is no slouch.

 

He is settling in Alice, has had a number of casual jobs and has just landed a permanent one with a prominent retail store.

 

He’s paid the fine. Given the confusion about skating in the Mall, should the council pay back the fine and let bygones be bygones?

 

Marco has learned his lesson about the – present – rules in the Mall, and isn’t that the main objective of by-law enforcing?

 

Despite several requests from the Alice Springs News Online the council did not provide an official comment. We will update this report if we receive a comment.

    18 Comments (starting with the most recent)

    NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
    1. Ray
      Posted October 21, 2013 at 12:46 am

      Alice, it is an offence to skate in the mall. Check facts first please.

    2. Alice
      Posted October 20, 2013 at 2:22 am

      Just a quick point: According to law, you can only be requested to provide ID (furnish your details) to a lawful authority if you are suspected of committing an offence or able to provide evidence to an offence, e.g. being a witness.
      If this person has not committed an offence he is not required to provide ID and can do what he wants.
      Therefore the fine is illegal and needs to be paid back.

    3. Ray
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      Peter, you said I made a lot of assumptions, but only point out one. I make no assumptions about his behaviour, it is in the report “he asked the rangers to show him their id first”. Yes, the by-law is very clear where it states they have the power to request ID be shown.
      Maybe this is a common law right, but the bylaw is very clear that the rangers have the right and authority to ask for ID.
      The article states that “this went on, backwards and forwards, for some time”. So without making assumptions, and based on the article, the rangers identified themselves, and even after doing so, Marco continued to argue “for some time”, refusing to show ID.
      His refusal now has the Police involved. What a waste of resources!
      Who said anything about corruption, or absolute power? The rangers are doing their job, within the extent of their powers.
      Well done to the Rangers for having the guts to actually do their job, and well said Steve Brown!

    4. Peter
      Posted October 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

      I would suggest Ray is making a lot of assumptions in relation to the young man’s behavior. There is no argument Marco was fined for not producing ID. However, it was the skating that drew the attention of the rangers. This by-law for which Ray quotes appears to give arbitrary power to the council. “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is a poor reflection of council. What do the civil libertarians make of this? I guess the above comments are an indication.

    5. Posted October 16, 2013 at 2:13 am

      Don’t worry Peter, October 15, 7:42am: Eight-year-olds won’t have to carry ID as anyone under 10 cannot be charged for anything in this country. Eleven-year-olds and over however better start packing their birth certificate!

    6. Keeping it Real
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      So the power-rangers write a ticket … who else in this town knows as well as I do that if you write the council telling them you want to contest the ticket in court, it will be the last you hear of it.
      Council has to hire a lawyer and that will be over a thousand bucks. If the council actually gets lucky and wins, then the most they get out of it is less than $100 in costs. Any fines ordered go to the NT Government Treasury. The council gets nothing but a debt of a thousand bucks to a lawyer. It’s called winning the battle but losing the war.
      It must be about 18 or more years since the council last took somebody to court over a ticket. They just can’t afford it.
      Given the council track record of losing in court for the other matters, it would seem the ticket holder has the upper hand up already.
      BTW Mr Steve Brown … your comment on this issue just lost you my vote in next council election.

    7. Ray
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I can’t believe the number of people commenting here saying he was fined for skating in the Mall. He was not fined for skating, he was fined for failing to produce ID when told to. Hal, that is worth 4 penalty units.
      Let’s turn the offender into a victim once again!
      Look up the bylaws. Section 74 states that you must produce ID when asked.
      So to set the scene, two uniformed, adult rangers approach this kid to inform him he can’t skate in the Mall. They ask for his ID, as they are entitled to do. Instead of respecting authority and doing what he was told, he begins to argue, and refuses.
      Therefore he commits an offence and is fined for it. The ranger simply has to display his badge, which the article says was displayed on his belt. Where does it say the ranger has to produce it for inspection? So to say Marco had to “drop to his knees” to inspect the badge sounds like a bit of “mischief making” from the AS News.
      I would imagine if young Marco would have shown a bit of respect to the Rangers, and complied with their direction to produce ID, the rangers would have probably explained to him that skating was illegal in the Mall. As it was they used their discretion and did not even charge him for that offence.
      576 reasons to obey a lawful direction without arguing.

    8. Brad
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

      When I was living up in Alice Springs, I skated. I was normally the one who would be taking the photographs and taking video.
      I believe this is such a counterproductive thing to be happening. Matty Day has worked real hard to get skate boarding Australia to come into Alice as a hub for NT Skateboarding.
      The majority of us aren’t criminals. I was a lifeguard at the pool, others are IT gurus.
      We are not out to hurt anyone or damage anyone’s property, so why are we not allowed to skate in the mall?
      The fact of the matter is that Marco did nothing wrong. If the ranger failed to produce ID then clearly the misinterpretation is on the ranger, who clearly needs better interpersonal skills, and needs some more ranger training.

    9. Peter
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 7:42 am

      This is the most ridiculous case of bureaucracy gone mad I have ever heard of.
      The fine is so disproportional to the offense and further, what a trivial offense it is.
      I understand skate boarding or any activity that is inappropriate to the environment / venue / place for which it is being conducted may be dangerous or cause disruptions to other users.
      However, skateboarding in an area designed for skateboards seems appropriate to me.
      The over zealous rangers may need to have a good look at themselves. Surely a warning or even a chat about what is permitted and what is not must be the first strategy.
      The article above does not paint a good picture of the rangers involved. Is this not just a revenue raising activity by the council? Skateboarders are an easy target. Most will be juveniles who’s parents will be lumbered with these exorbitant fines.
      Do all persons now need to carry identification upon their person at all times in the event a ranger demands they produce identification?
      Does carrying a skateboard under ones arm in the mall precinct constitute an intention to skate?
      Does not hearing a ranger constitute failure / refusal to supply ID?
      Skateboarding is a great activity and most board riders realise skating places and the obstacles that make it fun are hard to come by. Maybe the council can consult with the skaters so skaters can use this venue that was designed to skate on.
      As for the demand for ID this is a joke.
      People, make sure your 8 year old has his/her birth certificate on them if they have a skate board in their possession.
      The council is on the nose and this really is a bad example of council powers. Pay the boy back and let the them skate.

    10. Tim Collins
      Posted October 15, 2013 at 6:02 am

      Steve Brown … keeper of the “Skater’s code”…

    11. Nimby
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      Interesting bill – $576. Wonder what the breakdown is.

    12. Steve Brown
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Either you have rules or you don’t. If you have them they must be enforced!
      If you followed the previous discussion on this subject you would be well aware that the rules around skating the Mall are there for a very good reason, to protect the vast majority of citizenry!
      The rules are in line with the Skaters own code of conduct, “Not in the CBD”, “not in congested areas”.
      The seating in the mall is constructed so that it can be Skated upon, it is however designed for, and there for, people to sit on!
      The two activities are mutually exclusive. It is irresponsible to separate Skaters out as if they were some hard done by down trodden class of their own.
      They are simply everyday citizens with a thrill seeking hobby. They are expected to follow the rules just like everybody else.
      I agree that the fines are a little on the steep side, mind you Council has just recently rejected a motion to double them, so the young man could have found himself facing an even larger payout!
      Bit of a rude welcome to town I guess although definitely self inflicted. A tip for the rest of your stay with us, follow the rules just as you were expected to do in Melbourne, try being polite co-operative and give your name and address when asked, it will almost certainly save you a lot of angst.

    13. Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

      My son is a skateboarder and I believe the majority of the skating community to be well intentioned youths.
      Skateboarding is a sport and is an activity that requires skill, balance, commitment and builds up the physical strength of the participants.
      I honestly believe that they should be accommodated and allowed to skate in the Mall, in the streets, build a bigger park for them, indoors or outdoors, acknowledge them and work WITH them instead of against them.
      If they are continually harassed by (instead of supported by) the Rangers or the Police, they could tend to creating mayhem instead of just enjoying a good grind or Ollie. Why can’t Alice Springs be forward thinking instead of reactionary to youth?

    14. Navid Dixon
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 9:13 am

      Town Council are giving Rangers a bad name. Perhaps we should change the title of their job description to something more accurate. Any suggestions?

    15. Ruth
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 8:33 am

      Give him his money back and no more ridiculous fines please. Sounds like an apology may be in order as well. Some Town Council “Rangers” strut about with an air of the Police Officer (no offence to our great police force). Police Officers, they are not. These kids are outdoors and excercising, healthier than sitting in front of a screen playing games.

    16. Hal Duell
      Posted October 14, 2013 at 7:44 am

      Ouch! Where did the $576 amount come from? Who sets these totals?
      Is it hypocritical for Council to cry foul when hit with a $12,000 corporate override for a by-election, then hitting a skateboard rider for half a thousand for skating on street furniture that was built for it?
      Governments are way too hungry, the lot of them.
      Why do Rangers not wear their badge on their shirt where it can be easily read?
      Someone was riding a bicycle through the market yesterday. Not a Ranger in sight.

    17. Ciz
      Posted October 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Give the guy a break. With the problems in and around Alice, skateboarding is the perfect outlet for youth. But he receives a fine! Is this for real?

    18. Posted October 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      I have read several news articles about bringing life back to the CBD. And how skating was one of those initiatives and the skate benches was way to bring the skaters. But now you are turning them away and making them pay for something the council endorsed. THIS IS JUST WRONG!
      PAY HIM BACK! Responsible citizens pay when they are in the right, lest they get prosecuted.

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