Police in threat to ban pursuits
Police in threat to ban pursuits

WA Police Union members want an immediate ban on high-speed pursuits until the State Government introduces legislation that will hold suspects responsible for anything criminal that occurs during a chase.

The branch representing the union hierarchy plans to raise the issue at the union's annual conference at the end of the month, saying the current situation where officers are held responsible for offences arising during the course of a pursuit was unacceptable.

"Offenders in these situations must be held accountable and legally liable for all offences that occur as a result of them failing to stop for police, whether they be direct or otherwise," the branch wrote in the conference agenda.

It also said current penalties for failing to stop were "grossly inadequate".

So-called "offender onus" laws exist in some US jurisdictions, where motorists who try to evade custody are held liable for any damage, injury or loss of life that occurs after they refuse to stop.

The issue of pursuits was highlighted in April when Dianella mother Sharon D'Ercole died after a crash involving a police car that was chasing a stolen Audi.

An officer has been charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death over the tragedy.

In the D'Ercole case, the officers had allegedly requested but had not received permission to pursue the Audi that had been reported stolen from an Applecross home.

Officers can start a pursuit but must seek permission to continue.

Ms D'Ercole's widower Ron D'Ercole said he believed police officers had sufficient protection under the current laws.

"The risk is if it's condoned that any measures can be taken by police there's always a risk there's a greater risk overall to the public," he said.

Mr D'Ercole agreed with the concept of offender onus laws, adding he believed driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol should not be regarded as a mitigating factor.

He also urged police to consider other tactics, such as better interception techniques.

There have been at least four inquests into seven deaths linked to pursuits since April 2010. Most have involved people in the car being chased or people who were struck by the car being chased.

Last July, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker questioned whether the danger of pursuits outweighed the need for chases in her findings into the death of 11-year-old Matthew Tjoe, who died when an unlicensed teenager fleeing police ploughed into his mother's rental car in October 2009.

The union executive also wants laws to protect police from prosecution "while performing their duties in good faith and without malice". <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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