Man threat­ened cops with gun in pur­suit

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - NEWS - SAM MCKEITH

A MAN who led po­lice on a high-speed pur­suit on the Coffs Coast has been found guilty of threat­en­ing high­way pa­trol of­fi­cers with a firearm dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

Last Fri­day, NSW Dis­trict Court Act­ing Judge Colin Char­teris found David Michael Bell, 39, guilty on firearms charges flow­ing from con­duct af­ter he fled an RBT at Macksville on the morn­ing of De­cem­ber 11, 2016.

While Bell man­aged to es­cape from high­way pa­trol of­fi­cers on that day af­ter crash­ing through a gate and lead­ing of­fi­cers down a bush track, he was sub­se­quently ar­rested by NSW po­lice on De­cem­ber 30, 2016.

At trial in Septem­ber, Bell pleaded not guilty to charges of pos­sess­ing an of­fen­sive weapon and threat­en­ing to use it to pre­vent law­ful ap­pre­hen­sion dur­ing the pur­suit.

The Crown’s case was that Bell had threat­ened of­fi­cers with a shot­gun dur­ing the pur­suit, while the ac­cused’s de­fence coun­sel, bar­ris­ter Brian Mur­ray, ar­gued po­lice had “fab­ri­cated” the ex­is­tence of a gun to jus­tify not call­ing off the chase.

Mr Mur­ray also claimed that no gun was vis­i­ble from in-car po­lice video of the pur­suit.

In find­ing Bell guilty on all counts, Act­ing Judge Char­teris de­scribed the tes­ti­mony given by the high­way pa­trol of­fi­cers at trial as “com­pelling”.

“They were seek­ing to be hon­est with the court,” he said.

“In the scheme of things I thought their ev­i­dence was hon­est, ac­cu­rate and reliable.”

Act­ing Judge Char­teris made spe­cial men­tion of the of­fi­cers’ “re­mark­able courage” dur­ing the pur­suit, say­ing they con­tin­ued to chase Bell’s panel van de­spite the ac­tion putting them “at risk”.

He said the po­lice video “did not pick up ev­ery­thing that was oc­cur­ring in the pur­suit of the ac­cused’s van”.

“I con­clude that the qual­ity of the in-car cam­era was not suf­fi­cient to cap­ture the de­tail of what the ac­cused was do­ing,” he said.

“I’m sat­is­fied that what the ac­cused dis­played was within the def­i­ni­tion of an of­fen­sive weapon.

The court heard Bell’s van trav­elled at a speed of up to 180km/h dur­ing the pur­suit that lasted for about 15 min­utes and cov­ered more than 20km.

“This was a high-speed chase and the ac­cused does not dis­pute ... the speeds that were recorded,” the judge said.

Dur­ing the chase po­lice said Bell waved a shot­gun out the driver’s side win­dow, told of­fi­cers to “f--- off”, and at one point “lev­elled” the firearm at of­fi­cers, the court was told.

“Th­ese are very se­ri­ous of­fences,” Act­ing Judge Char­teris said.

Bell will be sen­tenced on De­cem­ber 20.

Photo: Frank Red­ward

GUILTY: David Michael Bell, 39, led po­lice on a high-speed pur­suit south of Coffs Har­bour on De­cem­ber 11, 2016.

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