Man jailed for driving at rangers
TWO Tweed Shire Council rangers feared for their lives and for the school children around them when an enraged Cudgen motorist drove at them during a routine traffic enforcement operation.
Both men were forced to jump out of the way of the moving vehicle outside St Anthony’s Primary School on Pearl Street, Kingscliff, during an incident last August.
Cudgen resident Mark Ramon Couttas was convicted in Tweed Heads Local Court on March 22 on a charge of driving a motor vehicle in a manner that menaces others with intent to menace, along with six other charges.
Couttas pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, with a non-parole period of seven months.
Tweed Mayor Warren Polglase yesterday said any violence against council rangers would not be tolerated, and all incidents of assault, harassment and threats would be reported to the police.
“Our rangers are out there doing an important role in the interest of the community safety and do not deserve to be attacked or harassed while simply doing their job,” Cr Polglase said.
Couttas has appealed the severity of the sentence, which will be heard in the Lismore District Court on June 4.
He remains in police custody.
Cr Polglase called the incident an extreme case.
“This matter is made worse by the fact that it occurred directly outside St Anthony’s Primary School in a 40- kilometre- per-hour school zone when young children were arriving,” he said.
He said it was not unusual for council rangers to cop harassment from the public.
“While this is an extreme case, our rangers are regularly verbally harassed by members of the public, particularly when carrying out their duties near schools,” Cr Polglase said.
“The safety of our young people is paramount and parents should be mindful that these road rules are in place to protect their children.”
According to a police report, the two rangers were conducting traffic enforcement in bus zones when the incident occurred on August 19, 2009, about 8.43am.
It noted Couttas reversed his vehicle 50m and collided with a bus which was stationary in a nearby bus zone.
He then changed direction and, at speed, mounted the kerb towards the first council ranger, who jumped from the path of the vehicle.
Couttas travelled across south and northbound lanes towards the second ranger and a member of the public, stopping when his car collided with the kerb.
Both rangers took evasive action to avoid being hit by the vehicle.
The two rangers and the member of the public said they feared for their lives.