13 Jul 2008

Tougher penalties for those in police chases - association

7:11 pm on 13 July 2008

The Police Association wants tougher penalties introduced for fugitives who flee police by car but the Criminal Bar Association questions how much good it would do.

A policy document will be released by the Police Association in parliament sometime in the next fortnight.

The association's president, Greg O'Connor says it was prepared before the unfortunate death of Porirua Sergeant Derek Wootton, 52.

Sergeant Wootton was hit by a car just after laying a set of road spikes about 3am on Friday.

Police had been in a high speed chase with the driver of the car who is now facing charges.

Mr O'Connor says the current policy is too restrictive for police.

He wants vehicle confiscation for people who flee police and the action regarded as an aggravating factor when sentencing a person convicted of a crime involving a police chase.

Mr O'Connor says the Association is hoping for major political support on its new policy.

The Criminal Bar Association president, Graeme Newell, supports initiatives which could help police, but cautions it could also prove counter productive.

He says raising the stakes could raise the risks as offenders drive even more dangerously to flee police.

Mr Newell says penalties for dangerous driving offences already include imprisonment of up to five years.

Request for privacy

Sergeant Wootton's family and work colleagues have asked for privacy as they make plans for his funeral.

A police spokesperson Kaye Calder, says several of the officers who were first at the scene have been approached at their homes for comment by members of the media.

She says they and the Wootton family are all grieving for Derek, and have asked that their privacy be respected as they prepare for his funeral on Wednesday.

Driver in custody

Police say the incident involving Sergeant Wootton started when a Black Honda Prelude was stolen in Tawa, north of Wellington. Police then pursued the vehicle through residential streets at speeds reaching 160kmh.

Sergeant Wootton had set down road spikes in Dimock Street, Titahi Bay, to try to stop the stolen car, and was fatally hit about 3am.

The driver, an unemployed man, 32, appeared in Porirua District Court on Friday charged with dangerous driving causing death, robbery, failing to stop, dangerous driving and kidnapping. The accused, whose name is suppressed, was remanded in custody.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad says the nature of the incident requires a number of different investigations, including a review by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The Coroner has been informed, and a separate internal police inquiry is also required.