Itinerant Byron Bay resident Pagan Morgan says Byron Shire Council is claiming ‘illegal powers’ and is taking the case to the Supreme Court.
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 the council meeting of 22 March it was resolved to erect more signage to warn motorists: ‘Sleeping in vehicles at any time prohibited – fines apply’.
Ms Morgan told Echonetdaily, ‘Fortunately for citizens and visitors, 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’.
According to Ms Morgan, Council has redefined ‘camping’ to include sleeping in vehicles.
She says that Council does not have this authority; 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.
Ms Morgan says she has been repeatedly harassed by police and Council rangers ‘wrongly’ telling her that sleeping in a vehicle is illegal, even before the ‘stricter’ policy was announced last week.
Supreme Court case
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 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 said.
She says she will be applying for permission to list councillors and staff as individual respondents (not Byron Shire Council) in order to prevent the ratepayers being billed for the legal costs of the offenders.
Council maintains that the new policy will not affect homeless people who sleep in their cars.