Po­lice of­fi­cer hit 200kmh in pur­suit

Waikato Times - - News - Me­lanie Ear­ley

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.

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