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Former Geraldton doctor takes on police over missing stop sign

By Cecile O’Connor

A West Australian driver has beaten a charge of driving through a stop sign after successfully arguing that the sign itself was missing.

Former doctor Sanjulal Sukumaran was acquitted in Geraldton Magistrate’s Court last week after the police prosecutor unsuccessfully tried to amend the charge on what was to be the first day of his hearing.

Dr Sukumaran said he saw a police car near the T-Junction on Durlacher Street on September 16 last year and was shocked when he was pulled over.

“I came back on foot and looked at the site and there was no stop sign,” he said.

“I am quite paranoid about stop signs and when someone calls me telling me I have done something wrong when there was no stop sign that is why I decided to fight it in court.”

Dr Sukumaran said while the wording of the prosecution notice was important in his case, other drivers should realise that they needed to stop at intersections marked with a solid white line regardless of whether there was a sign.

Under Freedom of Information Dr Sukumaran confirmed the sign had been removed and was not replaced until early December.

He said it was dangerous to leave a busy intersection without a stop sign for so long.

A spokesperson for Main Roads said the sign appeared to have been moved while work was being done on the footpath.

“Where an intersection requires the driver to stop, by law it only requires either a sign, or solid line.” the spokesperson said.

“Where possible, Main Roads will install both a sign and solid line.

“In this case, where the sign was missing, the solid line was still in place.”

Wording of prosecution notice

Dr Sukumaran said the prosecution notice alleged there was a stop sign “and” a stop line.

He pleaded not guilty.

On the day of his trial hearing, the police prosecutor sought to amend the notice so officers had to only prove there was a stop sign “or” a stop line.

Magistrate Matthew Walton said there would be “substantial prejudice” involved if the amendment were allowed on the morning of the trial.

Having refused the amendment, the prosecution offered no evidence and Magistrate Walton ordered Dr Sukumaran be acquitted.

Dr Sukumaran said he was relieved at the outcome.

“The reason I took this to court is that people are ignorant that we have to stop at a continuous line even if there is no stop sign,” he said.

“That is the rule, even if the handbook does not say so.”

He said he also wanted to make sure Main Roads put the stop sign back at the T-junction to make it safer.

“I wanted that stop sign to be back on that street again,” he said.

Senior Constable Keith Burrows from the Geraldton Police Traffic unit said generally speaking it was important to stop at a solid white line even if the sign was missing.

“You must stop at the stop line and that is to cover in case a stop sign is missing, whether it be due to storm damage, a crash, or simply been taken away for some reason,” he said.

“If the stop line is there on the road, that still has the same power as a stop sign.”

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