Harvey attacks WA judges on sentencing

Greg Roberts

Deputy Premier Liza Harvey has accused WA's judiciary of being too lenient on people convicted of crimes in which they fled from police during car chases.

Ms Harvey made the comments while announcing a government election promise to introduce new laws in which drivers who try to flee during pursuits will be automatically jailed for at least six months.

Parole will not be an option.

However when asked to provide examples of being given inadequate sentences, Ms Harvey would not name anyone specific but said there were numerous examples of people not being jailed after being convicted of evading police.

The new laws also include an increase in current minimum mandatory prison terms related to police pursuits that result in serious consequences such as death and injury, if the Barnett government wins the March state election.

"I am rarely happy with the sentencing judiciary, like a large number of people in the community," Ms Harvey told reporters.

"Because I see the outcome of these incidences."

Hopefully the new laws would make potential offenders think twice before trying to evade police, she said.

Reckless driving during a pursuit goes up from six to 12 months' prison, dangerous driving causing death from 12 to 24 months, causing bodily harm from six to 12 months and grievous bodily harm from 12 to 18 months' prison.

"This means there is no circumstance that a convicted offender can escape prison if they evade police under the Liberals' comprehensive pursuit policy package," Ms Harvey said.

"No ifs, no buts - the second you put your foot down on the accelerator, you are committing to six months behind prison walls."

The mandatory sentencing laws do not apply to juveniles.

The tragic death of innocent Perth grandparents Glenys, 60 and Kevin, 66, in September when their car was hit by another vehicle fleeing police sparked tension and debate about how police should handle pursuits.

Since 2011, 25 people have died in police pursuits and 19 were the offenders or their passengers, say police.

In 2016 police engaged in 1164 pursuits, 674 of which were aborted because it was deemed too dangerous.

On Sunday, Opposition leader Mark McGowan repeated his call to allow officers to ram offenders off the road in serious chases, which the WA Police Union wants but the government and WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan are against.

The government's plans include a trial of dashboard cameras for traffic police to record fleeing cars for evidence.