A police pursuit, otherwise know as Skye's Law, after a toddler was tragically killed by a driver trying to evade police, is considered a serious criminal offence by the courts and offenders are punished severely. A significant proportion of persons charged with police pursuit are sentenced to a jail term - 42% based on figures released by the Judicial Commission.
It is known as a Table 1 Indictable Offence, which means that the Prosecution can leave the matter to be finalised in the Local Court or can 'elect' the matter to be dealt with by a District Court.
If you have been charged with police pursuit (s.51B Crimes Act 1900), then the prosecution must establish certain elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt:
1. You knew, ought reasonably to have known or had reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers were in pursuit
2. You knew, ought reasonably to have known or had reasonable grounds to suspect that you were required to stop the vehicle – e.g. the sirens of the police vehicles were on and the police vehicles had been following you for some time
3. That you did not stop the vehicle
4. That you subsequently drove the vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others – whether you are driving recklessly or at a speed dangerous to others will be determined based on the objective standard of ‘danger to the public’. The prosecution must be able to establish that your driving deviated from the standard of driving of the ordinary prudent driver (Buttsworth  1 NSWLR 658) and that it was so serious as to have potentially caused danger to others, not just actual danger (Hain (1966) 85 WN (NSW)). Significantly, the reckless or dangerous driving must be shown to have occurred after the pursuit commenced.
The maximum penalty for this offence depends on whether it is a first or second major offence:
- First offence – 3 years’ imprisonment
- A second major offence in the 5 years prior to the most recent offence charged – 5 years’ imprisonment
The minimum disqualification period is 1 year, with an automatic period of 3 years.
Ideally you should speak to your solicitor before you speak to police – you need advice as to your rights and obligations so that you are more comfortable with the processes and understand what is happening. Only then can you make the best decisions.
YOUR NEXT STEPS WHEN YOU ARE CHARGED WITH A POLICE PURSUIT OFFENCE
1. Contact us. Early contact with Tankard’s Law is extremely important, so that you can start to take the right actions immediately. Obtaining advice in relation to making a statement to police or not. You need early advice.
2. Gather material immediately. You should immediately type out your version of what occurred during the incident and provide this to your lawyer – details get lost in your memory over time. This step is crucial. You should find out who else might be a witness to what took place and get their details.
3. Prepare. Your best chance in achieving the outcome that you want is to prepare your case properly. Let us help you.
If you have a question about the processes involved in arrest or charge, or attending court and what charges you face or need help understanding what the police are saying to you, contact us by phone on 02 6921 3220 or make a website enquiry. We will get back to you promptly.
Principal Solicitor and Director, Zac Tankard, has been helping Riverina locals charged with criminal and traffic offences since 1998. There is no one better qualified to get behind you when you need it most.