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Young not exempt from law

Thursday November 16, 2017 Written by Published in Local

Excusing school children from the law is “not a reality” and the Police statistics and court results prove young college students are just as likely to break the law as young people who are no longer at school, says police media liaison officer Trevor Pitt.


He was responding to a letter to the editor of CI News by a writer who suggested the Cook Islands Police Service should go easier on students who ride motorcycles without a safety helmet.

The letter accused the police of singling out “well behaved” young people, who according to the writer, were “not a risk”, and were a breed apart from other young people who broke the law and drove dangerously.

“There has never been a death among students riding their motorcycles to school,” the writer, who wrote under a pen name, said.

“Most of them don’t break any laws, they don’t speed or drive dangerously. All they are doing is going to school, for goodness sake.”

However recent statistics and court reports prove the writer wrong.

In April this year, for example, 42 youngsters, many of them students, were scheduled to appear before a Justice of the Peace in the Avarua High Court for a variety of offences, both minor and more serious, including speeding, failing to wear a safety helmet, driving without a licence, driving intoxicated, and not possessing the correct documentation for their motor vehicles.

The letter claimed “hordes” of police preyed on students on the outskirts of town, and fined them for unnecessary reasons, such as not wearing a safety helmet. 

But Pitt pointed out that everyone was equal under the law. He also reminded people that the Cook Islands Parliament made the law, not the police, and that the police then enforced the law.

“The police service is not blitzing drivers, and it is not unfairly singling out students as a target group,” Pitt said.

“The traffic stops are part of normal policing procedure - tactical in terms of location and timing, and are conducted all around Rarotonga, with (the help of) speed radar. 

“If anyone breaks the law while driving, they put both themselves and everyone else on the road at risk. Something to remember is that it’s not just about you,” he said.

The letter was published just two weeks after seven young people appeared in the Avarua High Court after failing to pay their traffic offence fines. The youngsters were among many others, who have in recent months been caught for not wearing a helmet.

At one stage over 42 young people were caught up in the judicial process for over six months on traffic-related matters.

It is now months since their first court appearances and some defendants have still not paid their fines or have failed to turn up in court. As of September 28, 15 of the 42 defendants were yet to pay their fines. Pitt said it was clear just from observing driving behaviour on the island that younger people were abusing the law. 

“By observation, driving behaviour during weekends is worse,” Pitt said.

The letter to the editor of CINews claimed alcohol was the real problem and observed that wearing a helmet would not save any motorcyclists suffering from the effects of alcohol.

The writer asked why the government did nothing about the nation’s drinking problem.

“We have good kids travelling to school, dressed nicely, hair short and tidy, getting picked on and bullied by our police for a stupid law that does not save the people who are really at risk. “I am talking about the 16 - 25yr olds who drink and drive and speed to their deaths on our roads at night or in the early hours of the morning during the weekends,” the letter read.

Pitt agreed alcohol was a concerning factor in a number of motor vehicle accidents and played a large role in cases that appeared before the courts.

“There's no disputing the level of (alcohol) abuse that is impacting driving. 

“These drink-drivers are being prosecuted mainly due to their involvement in motor vehicle crashes.

“A considerable amount of money is being spent on excess breath and blood alcohol analysis,” Pitt said.

However he repeated that police were not targeting any specific group of people

If young people wore their safety helmets and obeyed Cook Islands road rules, the number of 16-25 year olds in criminal court would decline, Pitt added.

“Their safety would also be further safeguarded when using Cook Islands roads.”