Coronavirus deniers who refuse to wear masks or give their name at police checkpoints in Melbourne are using a dubious legal argument to insist the law doesn’t apply to them.
Instead they stroll into Bunnings, Australia Post, and McDonald’s and berate staff who ask them to put on a mask, or breeze through roadblocks telling police they have no right to stop them.
Numerous videos have popped up around Melbourne and on the NSW-Queensland border with the obnoxious troublemakers spouting suspiciously similar nonsense.
That is because they are all reading from the same script they believe will protect them from fines or prosecution, and even allow them to sue police for unlawful detention.
The detailed document tells them to ignore all police questions and ask a series of their own that include asking officers to arrest each other and demanding thousands of dollars for ‘unlawful detention’.
It’s understood the group are part of a broader movement of ‘sovereign citizens’ who use the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act to challenge police powers, and share cheat sheets on social media.
One of them is Eve Black, who was widely condemned for refusing to provide her details to officers as she left a coronavirus hotspot while she read from the script.
Ms Black said she would be contesting any infringement notices she receives following the stunt, bizarrely claiming on Saturday that a person must ‘consent to legislation’.
‘Technically, you must consent to legislation. However even still, they can not arrest you for an offence such as speeding,’ she wrongly claimed on social media.
She referenced the use of the ‘strawman’ argument for refusing a fine – the belief system that a person is two separate entities; their physical being and their separate legal persona.
The widely-disputed idea is that a person’s legal responsibilities, including debts and taxes, belong to the strawman rather than the physical individual.
Kerry Nash, known as the ‘Bunnings Karen’, also used the script when staff at Bunnings and Australia Post told her to put on a mask, and later when police confronted her in the car park.
‘You’re talking about legislation that hasn’t been presented to parliament three times, we the people haven’t given our consent to act under it, and it hasn’t been consented by the Queen,’ she said.
‘That legislation is fraudulent. It doesn’t apply to me.’
Even if the argument put forward by the group were accurate, private businesses are still able to state conditions of entry, within the bounds of law, which includes requiring masks on health and safety grounds.
Ms Nash was arrested but released after she finally showed officers she had a medical exemption.
Legal experts previously told Daily Mail Australia that police had the right to request details from drivers, and said officers had been given additional covid-19-related powers under Victoria’s State of Emergency.
The script spells out in great detail, step by step, what to say if they are pulled over while driving – such as at a border crossing or checkpoint in and out of Melbourne.
Followers are told to never wind their window down more than three inches – just enough to talk to police (who it refers to as ’employees of private Vatican-owned corporation’) and hand them documents.
Instead of answering any of the reasonable questions police will ask them, like where they are going to to provide details, they ask a series of questions from the list over and over until they get an answer.
The first three questions ask if they have disturbed the peace, have committed a crime, or are under arrest.
When the officers say they are not under arrest, the script says to reply: ‘As I have not committed a crime, nor am I under arrest, therefore I am free to go. Have a nice day.’
Police will then say they are not free to go, as their question won’t be over, which the script has predicted.
‘This now changes the game completely as they are now acting unlawfully and require your consent. Now we bait the trap to gather evidence,’ it reads.
The questions get increasingly bizarre from this point, beginning with ‘did you take an oath to uphold the law?’ and ‘do you agree I am a living man/woman?’
A policeman in Queensland had a snappy retort to this line of questioning, telling a truck driver who tried this script at the border ‘it’s 2020, what do you identify as?’
From here the script moves into the strange belief that police forces are private corporations, asking if the officer is acting as an employee of ‘the capital lettered private corporation VICTORIA POLICE’.
Officers will inevitably say yes, which the group believes is enough to let them state: ‘I decline to do business with your corporation and I object to your attempt to coerce a contract’.
Part of their whole theory is that laws can only be enforced with the ‘consent’ of citizens and police are merely trying to enforce a ‘contract’ followers don’t consider themselves a party to.
This is why members of this group often say ‘I do not consent’ in response to lockdowns and mask wearing directives.
The next step is to ask for the officer’s name, rank, and police station. If they don’t do so immediately, the script says to get another officer to come over and arrest their colleague under Crimes Act 1958 Section 456 AA subsections (4) and (5).
This is actually accurate in that an officer does have to provide this information or face a fine, but neglects to mention the citizen also has to give their name and address if police ask them.
The script then says to demand, in verbose language, that the officers provide them with written proof that they are able to detain them ‘when I have not disturbed the peace, nor committed a crime’.
Not wearing a mask, failing to provide details at a border checkpoint or traffic stop, and so on are usually just on-the-spot fines, but are technically crimes – meaning this is an invalid argument.
Regardless of this nonsense, the script says to inform the officers they are unlawfully detaining them and claim that because the officers have weapons they are supposedly committing aggravated armed kidnapping.
The follower is then to hand the police a ‘Schedule of Fees for Unlawful Stop and/or Detention’ that claims they are owed $50,000 plus $200 for every minute they are ‘detained’.
There are various escalators this document claims on top of that, ranging from $2,000 for threat of arrest or being handcuffed, to $50,000 for being hauled before court and $100,000 per day behind bars.
An ‘invoice’ for all this accrues three per cent interest per day and is bizarrely supposed to be paid in the equivalent value of sterling silver rather than actual money.
This document was concocted by someone referring to himself as ‘Apollo, Galactic Emissary also known as the living being John Robert, of the family Smith’.
It claims followers are ‘not a citizen, nor an alien’, do not consent to police authority, and ‘rebut any and all presumptions of law’.
But this is not the end of the script by a longshot. Next it describes what to do if they are asked to provide a driver’s license – ask the officer to define to word ‘driver’.
‘A driver actual is a person employed to drive for the purposes of transfer of goods or people. You are a traveller, travelling,’ it claims with maddening and nonsensical pedantry.
Advice about what to do in other situations, such as being threatened with arrest for refusing to provide their details, is fairly repetitive and follows the same line as above.
If the driver is asked to get out of the car, they are to say they don’t feel safe doing so as the police are armed and supposedly have no authority (in their eyes).
The driver is only to get out of the car if police repeatedly say they will use force to remove them.
‘As you have clearly stated you intend to use force to unlawfully remove me from my car, and, as you are armed and I have seen many video clips of police shooting dead people in cars, therefore I feel threatened for my mortal life and am now under extreme duress, therefore I surrender hor (sic) de combat,’ the script reads.
Hors de combat is a term used in international law to describe military personnel who are unable to fight, such as if they are sick or have crashed their fighter jet, and are granted special protections under the rules of war.
The script says at this point they are to say nothing, go with the officers peacefully, and keep track of how long they were detained so they can ‘invoice’ them later.
The script also contains a list of coronavirus-specific questions, including demanding scientific proof it is an infectious virus and whether whoever issued the directive they are disputing has the authority to do so.
The group claims state police laws are invalid because the Australian Constitution states that state laws are overridden by federal ones and, in particular, common law.
They claim pulling someone over and asking them questions without suspicion they committed a crime – such as a random breath test – are inconsistent with common law.
A document written by Mike Holt, which followers are told to print out and hand to police, cherry-picks three cases they claim backs up this position.
The first is Northern Territory Supreme Court case Regina v Banner (1970) that ruled police have ‘no power whatever to arrest or detain a citizen for the purpose of questioning him or of facilitating their investigations’.
‘If the police do so act in purported exercise of such a power, their conduct is not only destructive of civil liberties but it is unlawful.’
The second was a controversial ruling by the Victorian Supreme Court in 2011 that cleared a man of any wrongdoing for running away when police tried to question him about an unpaid restuarant bill.
Andrew Hamilton allegedly fled a Taco Bill in Melbourne after an argument over a $136 bill.
Justice Stephen Kaye noted that police had the right to ask for a person’s details if they were suspected of committing a crime and the person must answer.
However, Mr Hamilton ran off before officers had the chance to do so and therefore hadn’t committed any offence.
‘It is an ancient principle of the Common Law that a person not under arrest has no obligation to stop for police or answer their questions. And there is no statute that removes that right,’ Justice Kaye said.
‘(The Crimes Act) does not contain any provision which expressly empowers police to detain a suspect, or take a suspect into custody, for the purposes of questioning the suspect.
‘The conferring of such a power on a police officer would be a substantial detraction from the fundamental freedoms which have been guaranteed to the citizen by the Common Law for centuries.’
The third case cited is a ruling in 2013 by Victorian Magistrate Duncan Reynolds that cast doubt on the legality of random police stops.
‘There is no common law power vested in police giving them the unfettered right to stop or detain a person and seek identification details. Nor, is s.59 of the (Road Safety) Act a statutory source of such power,’ he said.
The case was prompted by two African men being randomly stopped by police, and one being charged with assault when the situation escalated.
The man’s own lawyer conceded that the ruling didn’t apply to random breath tests as that power is explicitly spelled out in statute.
The big flaw in these arguments being applied to mandatory mask wearing and border checkpoints is that police would have a reasonable belief that anyone who didn’t comply had committed a crime, and could therefore be asked to provide details.