Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heres a reason not to use public transport

Riding Melbourne's trains can be scary. Theres always the threat of violence. Gangs may pounce upon you and assault you in numbers.

I'm not only talking about teenagers and hooligans. Sure they exist, but at least you are allowed to use force and resist them. If a crowd of friends or bystanders see them attack you, they can come to your rescue.

But there is a worse category of thugs. I'm talking about gangs of thugs, empowered by the state, to confiscate your property and initiate violence against you. You have no right to retaliate or resist either. For a long time, you have no right to carry weapons or firearms. Now we can see why - the state wants a monopoly on violence and they intend to use it excessively and abusively, to assault a businessman who had an invalid ticket because a machine was broken.

THERE are a thousand tales in this city when Metcard validators don't work. This is one of them.

Commuter Mark Latham tried to validate his weekly Metcard ticket at Tecoma station, on the Belgrave line, on May 29.

The vandalised machine didn't work, so Mr Latham boarded his train to the city, where he works as a buyer at a department store.

Mr Latham expected - as had happened before - that inspectors at Melbourne Central would validate his ticket for him. Instead, they asked him to talk to Connex's "authorised officers".

That's when things went bad, said Mr Latham, who has now taken to the Public Transport Ombudsman his complaint over the ordeal that followed.

"They asked for identification, so I handed them my licence," he said. An argument ensued, and Mr Latham admitted he lost his temper and swore at the officers, before reaching to take back his licence.

The officer holding the licence initiated what is known in their training as "maximising the tactical advantage": he overpowered the passenger.

Mr Latham says he attempted to "shrug off" the officer. Connex disagreed, arguing that he attacked officers and may be charged.

Connex customer service manager Geoff Young said Mr Latham appeared in CCTV footage, which cannot be released to the public unless a court case ensues, "to charge the officers, striking one. (He) was the instigator of the ensuing conflict."

Four officers pinned him to a wall, before "placing" him on the ground and restraining him for five minutes until police arrived.

City worker Thi Trinh, who was among six witnesses who offered their help to Mr Latham, said a crowd of 40 people gathered to watch the incident. "He was down, he wasn't struggling, and people were yelling at the officers to let him go."