Premier John Brumby says he will consider changing the laws governing cyclists after a magistrate labelled "pathetic" a fine he imposed on a rider who ran a red light and collided with an elderly pedestrian, who later died.
Magistrate Charlie Rozencwajg made the comments yesterday as he imposed a $400 fine on William Raisin-Shaw, 31, of St Kilda East, who pleaded guilty to failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing on Beach Road, Mentone, in August last year.
Raisin-Shaw struck 77-year-old James Gould, who was attempting to cross the road on a green signal. He landed heavily on his back and head, and died in hospital the next day.
In imposing the penalty yesterday, Mr Rozencwajg said the case highlighted the inadequacies of the current laws.
"This charge has nothing to do with anyone being hurt, much less killed," he said.
"This situation puts into the limelight an incongruous state of the law, because there's such severe consequences of your riding on this particular day, namely the loss of the life of James Gould," he said.
Speaking to journalists this morning, Mr Brumby said he would take advice from Victoria Police about possible changes to the law in the wake of the "tragic" case.
"I think many members of the public were surprised at the decision," he said.
"I think most people would say that this should be examined. We are concerned about what would appear to be the penalties for the offence that was committed.
"There may well be anomalies in the current law and if there are obviously we'll examine them. We obviously want to make sure that the punishment fits the crime."
Earlier, Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls said there were several other offences, including conduct endangering life and manslaughter that Raisin-Shaw could have been charged with.
"The police obviously weighed up all the evidence, decided what charge ought be laid and the penalty was imposed," he told ABC radio.
"I do note the comments that have been made by the magistrate and I will have a look at those comments, but it has to remembered it's the police who decide what charges ought be laid."
Victoria Police's Assistant Commissioner Noel Ashby said cyclists were currently exempt from facing certain traffic charges because they were not considered to be driving.
"On a bike, a person is deemed to be riding a vehicle and not driving a motor vehicle," he told Southern Cross Radio this morning.
"If you are driving a motor vehicle, there is a range of other provisions that are available where we could proceed that actually create a far more serious offence."
Assistant Commissioner Ashby said a "simple amendment" could probably be made to make additional charges applicable to cyclists.
"It would simply be expanding the definition to include all vehicles. There might be reasons why we can't, but I think it really does need to be looked at," he said.
At the time of the accident Raisin-Shaw was one of a group of about 100 cyclists taking part in the Hell Ride, an informal, weekly, high-speed ride through Melbourne's bayside suburbs.
In delivering his finding on Mr Gould's death last month, State Coroner Graeme Johnstone did not find Raisin-Shaw individually responsible for the death, but said the ride was a "recipe for disaster" that should be better managed to prevent further tragedies.
Source: The Age August 9, 2007