VicRoads returns WEPN number plates to rightful owner

Impending Supreme Court action prompts about-face on “offensive” number plates

Photographers: Michelle Porobic

A MAN’s home is his castle and his car’s custom number plates is its identity, and we’re pleased to report that, against all odds, Portland bloke Peter Hansen has had his Darryl Kerrigan moment.

Pete’s WEPN number plates, which were repossessed by VicRoads on the grounds of being “offensive”, are back where they belong – affixed to either end of his prized LC Torana.

Why were the WEPN plates confiscated?

Earlier this year, we received word that VicRoads had deemed the WEPN plates on Pete’s tough little LC to be offensive, and ordered that they be returned lest its registration be cancelled.

Our story caused quite a stir, with Pete’s plight gaining widespread momentum on social media and eventually garnering substantial mainstream media attention.

The public appeared to unanimously back his cause.

Photos: Michelle Porobic, Bright Design

Bolstered by the support, Peter vowed to contest the decision, first following VicRoads’ internal appeals process, to no avail.

“The review team has agreed that the plate combination is offensive as it is a reference to violence. I am aware that you have [had] the plates on your vehicle for some time but perceptions and meanings change over time and public expectations shift,” stated the ruling.

WEPN plates confiscated… but the story isn’t over

At that point, Peter was forced to surrender the plates, but made an occasion of it with a bevy of local toughies from Portland turning out for a cruise to return the plates to the registry.

Pete then escalated the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which subsequently ruled that it “does not appear to have the jurisdiction or power to make the orders nor grant the relief that you are seeking”.

Even though Peter had the support of his local member Roma Britnell, who had written on his behalf to the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, the Hon. Ben Carroll, it appeared he was out of options.

“I’d pretty much given up hope, to be honest,” Pete said.

Victory! WEPN plates are returned

That was until he received a Facebook message from a Melbourne-based barrister by the name of Alex Campbell, who believed in Pete’s cause and offered to help – much akin to Lawrence Hammill QC in The Castle, if you ask us.

Turns out that Alex is a car guy and had been following the matter in the media. He felt that Pete had a case for the return of the plates, so began working with him and a local Portland lawyer to continue the fight in the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, the matter was resolved in a private mediation prior to court proceedings, and while the specifics of the arrangement aren’t able to be disclosed and Pete is limited in what he can say about it, all that really matters is that he has his plates back.

“It’s great to have the plates back on the car,” Pete grinned. “So many people backed me and supported me, and it feels like it’s all been worthwhile.

“The little bloke doesn’t normally win, and to stand up for my rights and principles and have my plates given back to me is a good feeling.”

What would his advice be to someone else in a similar situation? “Take a leaf out of my book; public opinion does matter. Follow the process, get all the support you can, and try and get the right result.

“I’d really like to thank my barrister Alex Campbell and solicitor Jacinta Johnson; Street Machine; Michelle Porobic from Bright Design; Greg Holland and Jordan Elford for building my motor in three days to get the car back on the road for the cruise; Brad Frost for helping put the car back together; the Portland car clubs who attended the cruise; and the general public who signed the petition. Even if I had of lost, it still would have been worth it just to fight for the principle.

“To win is the cherry on top.”

In summing up, it’s the constitution. It’s Mabo; it’s justice; it’s law. It’s the vibe.