As reported by NSW Police News, a 48-year-old man was charged after allegedly ramming a police vehicle in Padstow, Sydney in late July 2020. Bankstown Traffic and Highway Patrol officers witnessed a person driving a Nissan Patrol utility on the road who allegedly drove over the median strip and onto the opposite lane. The officers were able to stop the driver until the car reversed back into the police vehicle without warning. After the collision, a police pursuit ensued where the driver was able to escape.
Following a public appeal, the Nissan car was spotted at Gordon. Officers from the Kuring-Gai Traffic and Highway Patrol attempted to stop the driver in St Ives. However, the driver attempted to escape by mounting the kerb and driving along a footpath before he was arrested and taken to Hornsby Police Station. The offender was charged with:
- Using an offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention
- Not disclosing the identity of driver/passenger
- Two counts of driving recklessly/furiously or speed/manner dangerous
- Driving on a path
- Not complying with direction given by police officer
In this article we will cover the law about Police Pursuit.
What is the offence of ‘Police Pursuit’?
In New South Wales, driving and traffic offences are considered a serious crime. The Crimes Act 1900 (“the Act”) prescribes numerous offences in relation to dangerous driving. The offence of police pursuit is also known informally as “Skye’s Law” under s51B of the Act. “Skye’s Law” was introduced after the tragic death of toddler, Skye Sassine, who was killed when a driver attempting to escape a police pursuit, crashed into her parent’s car. The introduction of the offence was intended to deter people from evading police, particularly whilst driving, which can lead to dangerous and high-speed police pursuits.
What the prosecution must prove in court:
To prove this offence occurred, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecution must prove that a driver of a vehicle:
- Knew, ought to reasonably have known, or had reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers were in pursuit of the vehicle and that the driver was required to stop
- Did not stop the vehicle
- Drove recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others
In this case, a ‘vehicle’ will include:
- Any motor car, motor carriage, motorcycle, or other vehicle that is propelled wholly or partly by volatile spirit, steam, gas, oil, electricity or by any other means (except human or animal power)
- A horse-drawn vehicle
Note that a vehicle used on a railway or tramway is not applicable to the meaning of ‘vehicle’.
A person will not be found guilty if the prosecution is unable to prove each of the elements above.
The maximum penalty in a case of a first offence is imprisonment for 3 years. However, if the defendant had previously committed an offence, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 5 years.
Generally, in all cases of dangerous driving, licence disqualification is mandatory. For the police pursuit offence, there is:
- A minimum disqualification period of 12 months, and
- A maximum ‘automatic’ licence disqualification of 3 years
The court will also consider that it would be “no real punishment” to disqualify an offender for a period of time that exactly coincides with the period the offender will be imprisoned (R v Veatufunga ).
Downgrading the charge:
It is recommended that a defendant contact an experienced criminal lawyer who can help you negotiate with police to request that that the charge be withdrawn or downgraded. Entering into plea negotiations may lead to the charge being replaced with a less serious charge depending on the circumstances of the offence, such as speeding.
Pleading not guilty:
Possible legal defences for this offence can include the following:
Again, note that if the prosecution is unable to prove all elements of the police pursuit offence, a defendant cannot be found guilty. For example, if a defendant had no reasonable expectation to suspect police was pursuing them (perhaps the police vehicle had no lights or sirens on at the time of the alleged event) they cannot be found guilty of the offence.
If a defendant wishes to plead guilty to the offence, they may attempt to achieve a more lenient sentencing outcome. It is recommended that if a defendant wishes to enter into a guilty plea, they should plead guilty early in order to receive a higher sentencing discount. A defendant can obtain character references and/or write a letter of apology to the court to help achieve this outcome. They may also request that the court refrain from recording a criminal conviction. An experienced criminal lawyer will be able to help in drafting strong submissions on your behalf to help achieve a more lenient result.
If you have been arrested or the police are looking to interview you regarding an investigation, Pannu Lawyers is able to advise you of your rights at every step of the criminal investigation & trial process. Pannu Lawyers extensively practice in Criminal Law and regularly appear at Courts throughout New South Wales such as Blacktown Local Court, Mt Druitt Local Court, Parramatta Local Court & District Court, Burwood Local Court, Downing Centre Local Court & District Court, and Penrith Local Court. If your matter is at Blacktown Court, we are conveniently located within a walking distance from the Blacktown Local Court. Call our office on 02 9920 1787 to discuss your matter in a confidential manner.
The above information is intended as general information and is not intended to be relied on as legal advice.