Police union threat to ban pursuits
The scene of the early morning crash. Picture: News at Night/7 News

Police union delegates have voted to ban vehicle pursuits unless the State Government legislates to protect officers involved in high-speed chases.

All but one delegate at the WA Police Union conference today voted to institute the ban - but the action has been postponed until October 1 to give the State Government time to introduce the laws.

New Police Union president George Tilbury said the State Government would need to produce "something concrete" by October 1 or the union would recommend to members that they ban vehicle pursuits.

An overwhelming majority of the State's 6000 police officers are members of the union.

The October deadline follows comments at the conference yesterday by Premier Colin Barnett that he supported legal protection for officers involved in pursuits.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan yesterday urged union delegates not to ban pursuits while there were discussions on offender onus legislation, where motorists who try to evade custody are held liable for damage, injury or loss of life occuring after they refuse to stop.

"I don't want to see anarchy on our roads, I don't believe the public of WA do, and we will work with the union to try to create this legislation," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"It is complex, but while we are doing that I will ask them in good faith not to respond by banning pursuits."

Support for offender onus legislation was pass unanimously.

Police Minister Rob Johnson would not commit to having the legislation introduced by October 1 but said drafting had already started and would involve police.

He predicted the ban would not go ahead.

“Although the Police Union has said October 1 is their deadline, I think if they can see we are doing everything we can to give them the comfort that they deserve then I don’t think they will have industrial action,” he said.

“We cannot have police officers not pursuing criminals. We’ve seen that sort of policy in Queensland where it’s just gone amok, you’ve had hoons coming down in front of police stations doing burnouts, doughnuts because they know the police there are not able to pursue them. I won’t have that in WA.”

Mr Johnson said there would be a “much, much higher financial penalty” for evading police under the proposed laws.

“At the moment if you simply don’t stop when a police officer instructs you to stop, it’s a maximum $300 fine. Now that’s ludicrous and certainly will be done away with,” he said.

Mr Johnson said police should be exonerated from responsibility for serious injury or death caused during pursuits, but he ruled out mandatory jail terms for the crime.

“What we should be doing is holding the offender responsible for any death or serious injury that occurs during a police pursuit, certainly that’s my intention,” he said.

“Certainly the intention is to introduce the legislation when we come back from the winter break and I would call on the Opposition to give absolute support to give this a very rapid passage through parliament.”

Mr Johnson said the pursuit legislation would be given priority over additional proposed laws to increase the power of police to break up rowdy parties but he wanted to introduce both to parliament soon after its six-week winter recess.

He said the laws would give police the power to enter premises without a warrant or permission of the occupier, and warn party-goers via loudspeaker to disperse or face arrest rather than currently having to inform them individually.

Mr Johnson said he had researched similar legislation in Ohio, US, and South Australia.

The proposed WA laws would also extend to vehicles because some party buses got out of control.

Mr Johnson said the legislation would also include possible penalties for people posting messages on social networking sites “encouraging other people to come along and cause trouble”.

“Sometimes, and what’s covered in the legislation, is if you get an occupier who is not acting responsibly and is advertising for people to come and cause problems, there will be penalties for that owner/occupier as well,” he said.

“Very often you might get young people who are renting a rental property and they advertise a party on Facebook and they encourage people to come along and that’s when you get a lot of people there and that’s when you get the gatecrashers of 100 or 150 people.

“We need to deal with that, the community is fed up with these people.”

Three people were arrested this morning after a car involved in an aborted police chase in Perth's northern suburbs crashed, trapping one of the occupants.

Police said the vehicle was involved in a short pursuit with the Toyota Camry thorugh Scarborough but it was "downgraded".

"The vehicle took off from police and was soon out of sight and a pursuit was discontinued. A short time later it was found crashed," police said.

The car rolled, crashed and landed on its roof on West Coast Highway near West Coast Drive.

St John Ambulance and emergency crews attended. The seriously injured 17-year-old driver had to be cut from the wreckage. Two teenage passengers sustained minor injuries.

The West Australian

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