Police officer hit 200kmh in pursuit
A police officer ‘‘drove dangerously’’ at 200kmh during a pursuit in Auckland in which two people died, and should have faced a criminal investigation.
Police watchdog the Independent Police Conduct Authority said yesterday the officer drove at speeds reaching 200kmh in an 80kmh area during the pursuit which ended in a crash which left two dead and three injured on October 23, 2017.
Ultimately the fleeing vehicle left the road at high speed and struck a tree. Two of the passengers died in hospital a few hours later, while the driver and the other two passengers were seriously injured.
In his report, authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said: ‘‘The speeds at which the officer drove on this occasion were clearly unjustified and constituted dangerous driving.
‘‘Indeed, it is the authority’s view that rarely, if ever, would driving on a public road at a speed of 21⁄2 times the posted speed limit not constitute dangerous driving.’’ The authority also found that police should have initiated a criminal investigation into the officer’s driving.
In its report, the authority said the incident began at 1.08am, when two officers were conducting speed checks on the northwestern motorway.
They observed a Volkswagen Golf travelling at 133kmh in an
80kmh zone. The officers began following the vehicle in an attempt to catch up to it, before initiating a pursuit.
The authority found that it was appropriate for the officers to initiate a pursuit. However, once it became evident the fleeing driver was not going to stop the officers should have abandoned the pursuit. The chase lasted
1 minute and 16 seconds.
The driver of the Golf, Prushya Chaichumpon, 23, was last week sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on two charges of reckless driving causing death and two charges of reckless driving causing injury.
Sharina Storm Meuli, 25, and Connor Talaimanu, 29, died after the car smashed into a tree.
Crown prosecutor Jo Murdoch said Chaichumpon drove at ‘‘grossly irresponsible speeds’’, overtaking dangerously and refused to stop despite many opportunities to do so.
Yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Tusha Penny said police accepted the IPCA finding about the speed reached by the officer involved.
‘‘We accept that the officer’s speed was not justified, was excessive, and the pursuit should have been abandoned.’’
‘‘There is no doubt that police could and should have done things differently that night and in the subsequent process.’’
Prushya Chaichumpon in court.