Segway rider wins re-hearing

By Imran Ali

A pub owner fined and convicted for operating his Segway on a footpath has won a re-hearing into his case.

The High Court at Whangarei this week quashed Neal Summers' conviction for operating a Segway, an upright, motorised scooter, on a Kerikeri footpath last June.

Mr Summers, who had appealed the conviction and represented himself, says he relies on his Segway as he finds walking difficult.

He has two artificial knees as well as a metal rod holding a femur together.

However, police say his Segway is a motorised vehicle and, therefore, is barred from the footpath.

Mr Summers' $1150 fine and the loss of 15 demerit points have also been refunded.

The police charge will be re-heard in the Whangarei District Court, and is likely to attract national attention as it will set a legal precedent as the first one involving a Segway and its classification.

Justice Kit Toogood ordered the re-hearing and said the key issue to be determined was the technical and legal classification of Segways.

"This wasn't just a trivial case because the issues here are important to police and to those who use these devices." He said people used Segways in Auckland to deliver pizza at great risk to pedestrians, therefore, it did not surprise him that it had become an issue and needed to be addressed.

Justice Toogood described the way Mr Summer's hearing was conducted in the Kaikohe District Court earlier this year as an "unsatisfactory state of affairs."

He said no assessment was done by the judge in Kaikohe on whether the witnesses were qualified to give evidence.

A conviction should not have been entered and the matter ought to be heard on a proper footing, he said.

The judge advised Mr Summers to engage a lawyer as the matter was too complicated from legal and evidential perspectives.

Mr Summers asked if the court could allow him to use his Segway while the matter was sorted out but Justice Toogood refused, saying that would require him to go into the merits of his defence.

The judge suggested that Mr Summers discuss the issue with police and come up with an arrangement.

Outside court, Mr Summers said he was happy with the High Court's decision to set aside his conviction but reiterated earlier comments that the case was a waste of taxpayers' money.

The case will be called in the Whangarei District Court on August 8.

- Northern Advocate

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