Police Pursuits are extremely dangerous.  They are among the most challenging operational situations facing officers.  These pursuits involve life and death outcomes to the drivers, passengers, bystanders and everyone else on the road.  The driver’s speed is often cause for traffic violations and can cause drivers to speed recklessly.  It is extremely hard for the police officer to control the behaviour of the driver.  What is a Police Pursuit? A Police Pursuit, also known as a “car chase”, is any situation where the police tell a driver to stop their vehicle and he or she don’t.  This is classified as a pursuit, regardless of the speed.

THE STORY

A 52-year-old man has been charged after an alleged police pursuit in Sydney’s west yesterday.  New South Wales Police had observed a vehicle allegedly travelling at more than 140km in a 100km/h zone on the M4 Motorway at Eastern Creek.

The driver failed to stop for police and pursuit was imminent.  The police found the vehicle in a nearby park and began a search of the area with the assistance of the Dog Squad.  The man was found after allegedly breaking into a nearby property and hiding in the garage.   The man was then taken to Blacktown Police Station and was charged with Police Pursuit, non-stop reckless driving, driving a motor vehicle during disqualification period, and entering inclosed land that is not a prescribed premise without lawful excuse.

In New South Wales, the offence of a police pursuit is also known as “Skye’s Law”.  On New Years’ Eve 2009, two alleged robbers crashed into the car where 19-month old Sky Sassine was tragically killed during a high-speed police chase.  As a result of Skye’s death, tougher penalties were introduced on people who lead police on dangerous pursuits.

THE LAW

Section 51B of The Crimes Act 1900 states the following:

  1. The driver of a vehicle
    • Who knows, ought reasonably to know or has reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers are in pursuit of the vehicle and that the driver is required to stop the vehicle, and
    • Who does not stop the vehicle, and
    • Who then drives the vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others,
  • is guilty of an offence.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?

The maximum penalty for being charged with a police pursuit is 3 years imprisonment for a first offence and 5 years imprisonment in the case of an offence on a second or subsequent occasion.  

WHAT MUST THE PROSEUCTION PROVE

A police pursuit is a criminal offence and the burden of proof lies on the Prosecution.  The Prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt.  The Prosecution must prove each of the following:

  • The driver knew, ought reasonably to have known or has reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers were in pursuit;
  • The driver knew, ought reasonably to have known or has reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver was required to stop the vehicle;
  • The driver did not stop the vehicle; and
  • The driver subsequently drove the vehicle recklessly or a at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others.

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