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Mana Whanonga Pirihimana Motuhake

Police should have abandoned pursuit prior to fatal crash

26 June 2009

A Police pursuit that ended in the death of 17-year-old Jamie McElrea should have been abandoned prior to the fatal crash, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.
The pursuit took place on the evening of 9 April 2007 after a North Shore Police officer saw a Subaru car driven by 18-year-old Troy Anderson and carrying two other passengers speeding on Hibiscus Coast Highway.

The officer initially followed the Subaru for more than 1km at speeds exceeding the highway’s 80kph speed limit without activating his lights and siren to commence a pursuit.

The pursuit commenced as the Subaru was turning in to Pine Valley Road, was abandoned when the Subaru reached speeds in excess of 150kph and the officer lost sight of it, and started again when the officer caught up at an intersection.

The recommenced pursuit continued at high speeds for about 3.5km along a narrow, winding road. The Subaru reached speeds of 150-170kph as it attempted to escape, and twice overtook other cars on blind corners before crashing into a bank, rolling and landing in a culvert.

The Authority found numerous breaches of Police policy by the pursuing officer.

Prior to commencing the pursuit, the officer had no legal justification for exceeding the limit.

When he did start to pursue, the officer did not inform the Police Northern Communications Centre. Under policy, he was required to do this so the centre could form an independent view of the risks and determine whether the pursuit should continue.

Having abandoned the pursuit, the officer should not have recommenced it without authorisation from the Communications Centre, and having recommenced it he should have abandoned it when the Subaru’s driving became too dangerous.

“When the Subaru overtook the first vehicle, the risks posed by the pursuit outweighed the need to immediately apprehend the driver,” said Authority Chair Justice Lowell Goddard. “At that point, the pursuit should have been abandoned.”

The officer also acted inappropriately by driving through the crash scene.

Though the officer should not have been pursuing the Subaru at the time of the crash, Justice Goddard said the primary responsibility for the fatal crash lay with Troy Anderson, who was intoxicated, drove at speed and lost control of his vehicle.


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