When those who have a publicised duty of care to protect community members fail to do so, the backlash is 100 per cent worse than any other member of the public. In a case that has caused significant furore in the NSW media, a police officer has been charged over a crash that has left a Cronulla grandmother in a coma.
Her family are now calling for tighter restrictions on police car chases to prevent anyone else from experiencing similar trauma.
Background of the crash
On September 5, the officer in question collided with the victim when travelling at 124 kilometres per hour (kph) in a 70 kph zone. At the time of the accident, he was travelling without sirens or flashing lights.
As a result of the crash, the victim suffered punctured lungs, head trauma and broken bones, and remains in a coma.
After undertaking an internal investigation, NSW police confirmed the officer had been pursuing another driver who was believed to be using a mobile phone whilst driving.
Later in the month, the officer was issued with a Future Court Attendance notice for his offence of dangerous driving that caused grievous bodily harm. His duty status remains under review – something that has angered the victim’s family.
What did the police say?
Following the incident, NSW police have stated that the officer was fulfilling what’s known as ‘urgent duty’. In an official response, an assistant police commissioner explained that urgent duty constitutes normal practice when officers need to comply with the law – a practice baring similarities to ambulances and fire brigades when they need to get somewhere quickly.
“We have the exception under the Transport Act to speed and go through traffic lights to catch up with speeding motorists, or people doing wrong. Included in this policy is the ability to catch up. In certain circumstances – and this happens all the time – we do radar or catch people on their mobile phones, some police are allowed to proceed without lights or sirens, based on risk,” explained the commissioner to media.
”I have never seen a worse statement in my life”
The victim’s family has expressed great outrage that the officer has not yet been suspended and the way in which the police are trying to avoid liability. They want the state government to follow in the footsteps of both Queensland and Victoria governments who have put measures in place which restrict police pursuits to situations in which public safety is at risk. Investigations are still ongoing, and the outcome will be determined at a later trial.
If you’ve been involved in a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault, get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners to see how we can help you submit a claim for compensation.