The Australian: Man cleared of ‘excessive’ driving charge – 19 September, 2006
A Sydney magistrate has criticised a police inspector who charged a motorist with dangerous driving, saying he had “got himself involved passionately” as a victim. Inspector Tony Unicomb interviewed driver, Henry To, after he almost hit an Australian team cyclist on February 21.But Insp Unicomb was also among the group of cyclists who narrowly avoided colliding with To, and Magistrate Brian Maloney said the matter should have been handled by officers from the Highway Patrol or another local area command.
“Let somebody else investigate dispassionately, coolly, calmly, in the proper police way,” he said. Despite finding the offence proven, Mr Maloney today dismissed the dangerous driving charge against To, in part because of how the matter was conducted.
Downing Centre Local Court was told To had braked hard to avoid hitting the group of 20 cyclists as he exited a service station at Brighton-le-Sands, in Sydney’s south.
Also among the cyclists were Shaun Higgerson, who is currently competing with the Australian team in the Road World Championships in Europe, and Christopher Sutton, the son of New South Wales cycling coach Gary Sutton.
To said he was sworn at and called an “idiot” by some of the group, and was given the finger.
This made him “a bit cranky” and he cut in on the cyclists further up the road to return the gesture.
Following this, he continued his morning paper deliveries, which was part of his work as a local newsagent.
Insp Unicomb, the commander of the Surry Hills Anti-Theft Squad, regularly cycled to work with the group that almost collided with To.
He told the court To had missed Mr Higgerson’s front wheel by about 30cm, forcing him to swerve and the other cyclists to brake.
The riders managed to stay on their bikes and avoid injury.
Insp Unicomb said he feared for his life and believed To’s driving was “so overtly dangerous that it was my duty as a police officer to do something about it”.
Later that day he asked To to discuss the matter at the police station.
To responded that he was too busy to come in, saying “There is no need, it is just nothing”.
Insp Unicomb replied: “Well, in that case, how about I come and arrest you?”
To then attended the Sydney Police Centre, where he was interviewed by Insp Unicomb and charged.
Mr Maloney found the dangerous driving charge proven, saying To “got close to this group because he wanted to give them a scare”.
“If you’re an Australian road cyclist, knowing what happened to some of our female elite cyclists not so long ago in Germany, you could be rather nervous using motorways,” he said.
Australian cyclist Amy Gillett was killed last July, and five of her teammates injured, when they were hit by a car during a training ride in Germany.
However, Mr Maloney “reluctantly” dismissed the charge against To, and released him on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
It was “grossly inappropriate” that Insp Unicomb had threatened to arrest To, he said.
Insp Unicomb had denied undertaking a personal vendetta.