Written by Michael Hempsall
April 12, 2016
Engaging in a police pursuit, also known as offence under "Skye's Law" named after a young girl killed in a police pursuit, is an extremely serious offence where a term of imprisonment is realistic even if you have no prior criminal record and are otherwise a person of good character. The seriousness with which Courts regards such offences is a product of the clear danger posed to innocent members of the community.
Because of the danger, there are carefully considered and detailed policies in place to guide Police Officers in deciding whether to engage in, or terminate, a pursuit.
Those policies have been under review since 2010. However, there has been a renewed call for that review to reach its overdue conclusion in the wake of the death of three young woman killed in the Sydney suburb of Maryong just moments after a police pursuit was commenced in February 2016.
Critics say that that the results of the review have been held back because the review would make recommendations that would result in less and shorter pursuits. Adopting such a recommendation could be politically "delicate" for any Government wishing to be seen as "tough on crime". It is worth noting that NSW Police engage in pursuits at a rate approximately twice that of their Victorian colleagues and nearly three times that of Police in Queensland.
Police have reduced the need to engage in pursuits with various technologies including (almost) across the board in car video (ICV) and number plate recognition software, as well as the prioritisation and streamlining of crime scene investigative techniques. In short, if there is a way to identify the driver of a car involved in a pursuit (without the need to catch them in the driver's seat), police are likely to make that identification sooner and more frequently than ever before.
Regardless of the outcome of the review it is clear that the community, and thus the Legislature and Courts, have little patience for those who engage in Police pursuits. For people who find themselves charged with such an offence it is critical to obtain legal advice early so as minimise the risk of a sentence of imprisonment.