Legal exemption for police pursuits?
Wed, 27 Jun 2012 12:10p.m.
By 3 News online staff
Police in New Zealand are backing their West Australian counterparts who want exemption from prosecution when involved in car chases.
The West Australian Police Union has voted to support a ban on car chases unless the state government gives them immunity from prosecution, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
WA Police Union President George Tilbury says officers should have immunity from prosecution if they were acting in good faith and without malice, and the state Police Minister Rob Johnson has indicated he supports a law change.
New Zealand Police Association president Greg O’Connor says that police need to be exempt from some laws, and that safety will be compromised if criminals know police won’t pursue them, Newstalk ZB reports.
"In car chases and in fact in many things that police do where they're required to do things that other members of the public will never be required to do, they do need protection," he says.
The threat of a ban on car chases in West Australia comes after a series of serious crashes during police pursuits.
A 27-year-old constable in Perth is currently facing charges relating to the death of a 50-year-old woman in a crash during a police pursuit in April.
The police officer was trying to stop a stolen car when he allegedly crashed into the car being driven by Sharon D’Ercole, killing her and injuring her 16-year-old daughter.
The WA Police Union has given the government until October 1 to change the law.
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) in New Zealand last week ruled that the speeds reached by a police officer during a fatal pursuit in 2010 were not justified.
Api Kao Aue, 33, died on the night of December 4, 2010, after he lost control of the Subaru Impreza he was driving while being chased by police.
He collided with a steel signpost near the corner of Kirkbride and Ascot Roads in Mangere, Auckland. His two passengers were seriously injured.
A couple of minutes into the pursuit, both vehicles were travelling in excess of 100km/h. Police briefly considered abandoning the pursuit before the fleeing vehicle spun out.
During the chase the police car briefly reached a top speed of approximately 150km/h, two and a half times the legal limit for the stretch of road.
Although the pursuit was justified, the IPCA said the speeds reached by the police vehicle were not.
The IPCA cited the location of the chase in a semi-residential area with a nearby busy intersection, traffic and pedestrians, and the fact that the pursuit took place at night time as factors contributing to their decision.
The IPCA recommended the officer be reminded of the risks of pursuing fleeing drivers at such a high speed.
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