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WA No Plates on Secure Stationary Car - Can Security Break In?

Discussion in 'Property Law Forum' started by Nigel, 20 May 2015.

  1. Nigel

    Nigel Member

    14 December 2014
    Likes Received:
    Hey there,
    I apologise in advance; I've written quite the wall of text. I would like some help with my situation after an incident at Murdoch University in Perth where I believe a parking officer, with the assistance of maintenance staff, broke into my car and looked through the boot without my consent.

    After a recent car theft - to which the police have been notified (17/05/15) - I have been securing my car by ensuring it is empty, removing the license plates and putting them in the boot (after the break-in I looked online and found plate theft to be relatively common), and then use the central locking to lock all doors except for the passenger door which is locked by my girlfriend. She then scans the car and we depart.

    To the incident in question; yesterday (19/05/15) at around 9:30-10am we parked up at Uni, secured the car, and went about our business. After lunch (around 1:30pm) I came back to the car so I could wait for my girlfriend only to find a a maintainence van parked behind my car, blocking it in, and a parking officer (I'm unsure as to an official title) opening my boot and rifling through the contents - writing the information from my plates down after looking at them.

    I immediately went over, seeing the officer with rags/dirty cloths in his hands, and asked what they were doing, questioning the parking officer as to whether he has permission to break into the car without any reasonable attempt to contact the owner whilst fumbling with my phone as I figured I should probably be recording what was happening.

    The officer claimed he hadn't broken in; they had received reports of an abandoned vehicle and that the back door was unlocked so he went inside and had a look around. At that point I went around to the drivers side where both doors were unlocked and told him that they had been locked and that he must've broken in. The officer avoided this and instead asked me for my details, which I didn't feel comfortable giving to somebody who had broken into my car. At this point I managed to begin recording, and I asked for his name which he refused to give me.

    The other person, the maintancence staff member, left as I was asking the officer questions so I demanded that we go talk to the officers boss to discuss the matter. The officers said that I could go see him, but that he had better things to do. Instead of answering any of my questions, the officer left towards his car saying he didn't know who the vehicle belonged to and that he didn't need to provide any evidence of permission to enter the vehicle claiming "you're on private property, do what you need to do" and "you must be a law student, are ya?". The officer then got into his car where I read out the licence plate, and went to the front of his car to try to film them but the officer reversed out of his space and accelerated out - clipping me on his way.

    I went straight over to the security button to report the incident, where a Security Officer took down details of the incident and informed me that the Head of Security was already being briefed by the officer on his side of things. The head of security came down soon after and explained that they had the right to enter vehicles that seemed abandoned, if they are insecure, in the interests of student safety.

    I told him that I understood but the car wasn't insecure and that my girlfriend could confirm that, to which he replied "Well we also have a witness who says otherwise." He claimed that officers didn't have the tools to break into a car (raising further suspicions in my eyes of the disappearing maintenance staff and the dirty rags he left with the officer) and that the boot had been open (not the side door, and even a marginally open boot would create a lot of noise when driving) which would mean that the officer would've had to climb through the boot to open the doors. After that I got his details and waited for my girlfriend to return.

    Additionally there are new scratches (pictures were taken at the time) above the door where possibly an instrument was inserted. With such a recent violation of my property by criminals, it deeply disturbs and upsets me that I would find a parking officer doing the same whilst in the alleged safety of a large University campus.

    My questions are:
    1. Was I within my rights to stow my plates in a stationary car? I have ceased this immediately until I'm aware of my rights in case I had been inadvertantly breaking any rules and so nothing similar can happen again.
    2. Did they have the authority to access the vehicle without my permission?
    3. If not, what are my options if I would like to pursue the matter further?
    4. I'm worried, especially considering how certain I am that the car was locked, that the officer will simply lie and claim that the car was insecure if the event is pursued
    5. Should I email the Head of Security and ask for all the relevant paperwork and legislation in regards to the incident?

    Thank you for your time, any help in this matter is greatly appreciated.
  2. Sarah J

    Sarah J Well-Known Member

    16 July 2014
    Likes Received:
    Hi Nigel,
    1. It is a requirement (road rule) that all cars have their registration plates visible at all times (24/7). Otherwise, a parking officer will not be able to enforce an infringement notice should they need to. I do not know the exact road rule for this under WA legislation, however, you can contact the Department of Transport to enquire
    2. Given this was parked on private property and the inspectors were also privately hired officers (or were they police?) they perhaps should not have opened up your car to inspect it. This could constitute trespass. Instead, they should have contacted the police and have them inspect your car
    3. The car that drove away and clipped your car, you may have an action in trespass to property and seek compensation for damage to your car
    4. Ask the university security for a copy of their policy manual for using and parking in the university parking lot. This manual should spell out the university's own rules for parking on their grounds This is like a contract of sorts. However, it should not give them the right to interfere with your car without police present
    However, do contact your local community legal centre or a lawyer to confirm this as I am not too familiar with WA rules.
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