NSW police urged to abandon pursuits

Sydney [AAP]

NSW police are being urged to scale back high-speed car chases after the death of a veteran officer who crashed on his way to assist in a pursuit.

Sergeant Geoffrey Richardson, 43, was killed just before midnight on Saturday when his car left the road and ploughed into a tree at Allandale, in the Hunter Valley.

He had reportedly been authorised to use road spikes and was trying to get ahead of the pursuit.

Road safety expert John Lambert called for NSW to abandon or radically scale back police pursuits, as Tasmania, Victoria and Queensland had done.

He said there was an extremely high rate of deaths from police chases and Sgt Richardson would still be alive if NSW had a more conservative pursuit policy.

‘Police have a major role in road safety, so how can they be initiating probably the most dangerous activity on roads, from a road safety perspective, that there can possibly be?’ Mr Lambert told AAP.

‘It’s in total opposition to their role in trying to reduce deaths and injuries on roads.’

Greens MLC David Shoebridge called for a less ‘hot-headed’ pursuit policy, saying a more rational alternative would be to reserve them for when police had no other viable option.

‘We should be expecting far better from the NSW Police than the dangerous approach of 30 high speed chases a week,’ he wrote in a statement on his website.

Sgt Richardson was a decorated police officer who served 18 years in the force.

He left behind his wife, who is a serving NSW police officer, and two young sons.

Paul Robert Johnson, 34, was arrested on Monday over the Hunter Valley pursuit.

Police said he had been disqualified from driving for life in 2000.

He was denied bail after facing court on 17 charges, including dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and two counts laid under Skye’s Law, which relates to police pursuits.

NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has been contacted for comment.

NSW Police Minister Troy Grant said a 2014 coronial finding recommended potential changes to pursuits, including whether NSW should have a policy for limiting pursuits over minor offences.

‘Changes have been made to the Safe Driver Policy where considered appropriate and the NSWPF is currently implementing these changes,’ he said.

Mr Grant said any decisions over police pursuits belonged to the commissioner.


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