Itinerant Bay resident Pagan Morgan says Byron Shire Council is claiming ‘illegal powers’ and she is very angry about it.
Ms Morgan is one of the people who sleep in their cars because of the expense and scarcity of rental accommodation. She says she does not break any law, infringe parking regulations or cause any mess or inconvenience.
At Thursday’s council meeting it was resolved to erect more signage to warn motorists, ‘Sleeping in vehicles at any time prohibited – fines apply’.
Ms Morgan told Echonetdaily, ‘While people who have been adversely affected by the minority of “vanpackers” who abuse the hospitality of Byron Shire may be pleased that Council intends to erect unlawful signage that prohibits everyone from exercising their human right to sleep in a vehicle, ratepayers will not be thrilled when the financial resources of Byron Shire Council are depleted by massive legal bills as a consequence of this illegal policy.’
According to Ms Morgan, Council has redefined ‘camping’ to include sleeping in vehicles. As Council does not have the authority to prohibit sleeping in vehicles (nor does anyone – including the police), the signage is effectively an indictable offence because it attempts to intimidate a person into abstaining from doing that which the person has a legal right to do.
‘Fortunately for citizens (and visitors),’ said Ms Morgan, ‘Australian law is not Byron Shire-centric; and justice only accepts the dictionary definition of “camping” – not an inaccurate definition created by a council public servant in an attempt to justify committing offences against persons who are merely exercising their human right to sleep in a parked vehicle. Unfortunately, for Byron Shire ratepayers, the practice of banning everyone from sleeping in vehicles as a “solution” to a minority of people behaving badly could cost the Shire a fortune in law suits. Punishing everyone for the “sins of the few” is also immoral.’
Ms Morgan says she has been repeatedly harassed by police and Council rangers telling her that sleeping in a vehicle is illegal, even before the stricter policy was announced last week.
Morgan says that as a result of Council’s ‘illegal’ actions, she feels obliged to travel to Sydney in order to file legal proceedings in the Supreme Court. ‘I mean really, folks, do you expect one to permit public servants to deprive every citizen within the borders of Byron Shire of their common-law and human right to SLEEP (be it in a vehicle or anywhere else).
‘I represent and do all the legal paperwork myself – so there will be no cost to the ratepayers from my side when the Council loses,’ Ms Morgan concluded.
‘I will be applying for permission to list Graeme Faulkner, Ralph James, Jan Barham and councillors who voted in favour of the illegal policy/practice as individual respondents (not Byron Shire Council) in order to prevent the ratepayers being billed for the legal costs of the offenders. However, don’t blame the victim (me and all affected citizens) if the offenders attempt to rip off the ratepayers by charging them for their legal costs.’