2011/22: Should there be greater restrictions placed on high-speed police chases?
Introduction to the media issueVideo clip at right:
on December 4, 2011, ABC News reported a teenage girl had died and two others were injured after their car crashed during a police pursuit in the Victorian town of Wodonga near the New South Wales border. The car had been pursued over the border by New South Wales police. If you cannot see this clip, it will be because video is blocked by your network. To view the clip, access from home or from a public library, or from another network which allows viewing of video clips.
What they said...
'The police vehicle is the most dangerous weapon available to law enforcement'
Canberra consulting criminologist, David Biles
'I'm satisfied that the guidelines that the police have in place now protect themselves and other road users'
Former New South Wales Police Minister, Michael Daley
The issue at a glance
On January 10, 2012, a male passenger in a vehicle died after a 20-second police pursuit in Dandenong, Victoria. The car was a stolen vehicle and the driver, who received minor injuries in the crash, had refused to stop when the police attempted to pull him over for erratic driving.
The death is the third in three months, and the fourth in six months in which a police pursuit in Victoria has ended in a fatality. It is also the fourth chase in three weeks which has led to an accident.
On December 4, a teenage girl died after a police chase by New South Wales officers ended when the sedan she was driving rolled shortly after crossing into Victoria. Two weeks before, a 19-year-old male driver was killed when his car ran into a tree after a pursuit. On July 14, 2011, a man died after his car struck a tree outside Wangaratta during a chase.
On December 30, 2011, there was a non-fatal collision when a man ran his car into the wall of a funeral home. On December 29, 2011, an 89-year-old woman narrowly escaped injury when a car crashed into her Altona North home shortly after police pursuit ended.
The spate of deaths and accidents has led some opponents of high-speed police pursuits to renew their call for either a total ban on such pursuits or the implementation of a new set of guidelines which would allow such chases only in response to serious crimes. Guidelines such as these operate in Tasmania and Queensland.
Australia-wide there are groups concerned about the nature and operation of police pursuit guidelines. In the Australian Capital Territory, the Greens have prepared a discussion paper supporting a trial of similar guidelines to those that operate in Tasmania and Queensland. This has been rejected by the ACT government.