Police Minister Liza Harvey said new police pursuit laws were necessary after figures showed two-thirds of drivers who recklessly fled police had escaped jail.
Mrs Harvey revealed figures in State Parliament yesterday which showed that out of 75 offenders convicted and sentenced for recklessly fleeing police between September 2011 and March 2012, 51 had avoided an immediate jail term.
“This Government’s view is that these are not appropriate sentences for people who recklessly flee police,” Mrs Harvey said.
She said this was because current laws do not reflect the extreme danger posed to other road users when a driver leads an officer on a high-speed chase.
Of 139 police pursuits over the same period, 83 per cent involved serial offenders.
“In other words, 116 of the offenders involved in police pursuits had prior charges for a traffic-related offence of some kind, and 56 per cent had a prior charge of reckless driving,” she said.
Mrs Harvey said the statistics highlighted the need for the Barnett Government’s police pursuits legislation, which would introduce a mandatory jail terms of between six months and five years.
“Under our Government’s legislation, the dangerous, irresponsible and frequently recidivist offenders will spend time behind bars.”
The new laws also aim to protect officers from criminal prosecution arising from high speed pursuits.
But shadow attorney-general John Quigley said the laws would make it harder for officers to defend themselves because the bill places the onus on officers to prove the pursuit was in the public interest, rather than the onus being on the prosecution to prove their guilt.
“For the first time in Western Australia, a Government of Western Australia is reversing the burden of proof on police, what an outrage.”
Mr Quigley, a former Police Union lawyer, said he felt “shoehorned” into supporting the legislation.
“It is with some reluctance and a heavy heart that I will be voting for this legislation that will make it harder for honest police in WA and I realise that publicity wise and politics wise, we are up against a wall.”