Written by Andrew Fraser
September 30, 2016
Police chases have been controversial for a long time.
On one hand, there is a view that police should do all in their capacity to stop offenders at all costs.
On the other, it is said that no crime, and certainly not mere speeding, or driving unlicensed, or performing a burnout, should lead to the death of an invariably young offender.
The ACT, where Labor governs with the support of one Green MP, is re-examing police chase guidelines and procedures.
New protocols announced by the ACT Government and ACT Policing on February 18 are designed to allow police chases only where there is a serious risk to public safety, or if there is a major crime planned or under way involving serious injury or death.
The other side of the coin is that police will be granted tougher powers to identify and prosecute drivers who evade police after the fact, as well as the ability to confiscate cars and suspend driving licences.
New offences will be created of failing to stop for police, who will get power to enter garages and sheds on private property, where they suspect, on reasonable grounds, that an offending motor vehicle could be located.
Drivers who fail to stop will face up to a year’s jail and a fine of $15,000 (three years and $45,000 for repeat offenders).
Assistant Police Commissioner Rudy Lammers told The Canberra Times, “Police in the ACT will no longer pursue fleeing drivers if the harm associated with the pursuit outweighs the risk of conducting that pursuit.”
Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury, the lone Green MP in coalition with the Labor Government, told The Canberra Times, “The Government is not giving people a licence to get away with it … Police will have full capability to track down people.”
Liberal Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson told the paper he feared police could be left “powerless”.
“That’s sending a very dangerous signal, in my view, with regard to community safety,” he told the Times.
Nine people have died on Canberra’s roads since 2004 with an average 8 or 9 pursuits conducted each month.
If you are charged with a road-safety matter, it pays to get sound legal advice.
Armstrong Legal’s Canberra criminal-law team deals only with criminal and traffic matters and knows the law in the ACT and, importantly, how it differs for offences in surrounding NSW, where they appear regularly, too, in all traffic and criminal matters.