Driver, 14, spiked in police pursuit

By Kristin Edge

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A 14-year-old boy driving a stolen car passed a school bus and a logging truck while fleeing police during a 20-minute pursuit in Northland.

Less than six hours later an unlicensed 18-year-old man driving a stolen car allegedly failed to stop for police at a checkpoint in Whangarei and lead them on a chase before crashing into a brick wall and fleeing on foot.

The pursuits come only days after a Whangarei District Court judge declared motorists in Northland who fled police then committed further crimes would go to prison.

Judge Duncan Harvey said motorists who fled from police put the lives of themselves, officers and innocent members of the public at risk, and such behaviour could not be tolerated.

On Wednesday a car was reported stolen from Titoki, 29km west of Whangarei. Police on Mangakahia Rd, near the intersection with Murray Rd, spotted the car and signalled for the driver to stop about 3.40pm.

Kaikohe police Acting Senior Sergeant John Miller said the vehicle continued north towards Kaikohe with police in pursuit.

The car travelled between 80 and 100km/h and passed a school bus and logging truck.

It was finally stopped when police road spikes were placed on a one-way bridge, puncturing all four tyres, where officers discovered the driver was 14 years old.

Mr Miller said the teenager faced charges of failing to stop and unlawfully taking a motor vehicle and would be referred to the police Youth Aid section.

Officers at a checkpoint in Churchill St in Whangarei noticed a driver who failed to stop about 8.30pm on Wednesday.

Police followed the car and found it against a concrete wall after it spun out and crashed on the corner of Kamo Rd and Wrack St. Whangarei police spokeswoman Sarah Kennett said the driver ran off leaving three passengers uninjured in the car. Officers quickly tracked the Auckland man who was driving to a nearby house where he was found hiding under a bed.

Shaquille Pook appeared in Whangarei District Court yesterdayon charges of failing to stop, failing to stop and ascertain injury, unlawful taking of a motorvehicle, dangerous driving and being an unlicensed driver.

He was remanded in custody to appear in Waitakere District Court on June 5.

In Whangarei District Court last week Judge Harvey said it was the fleeing drivers to blame, not the police, who were charged with ensuring public safety and could not just let fleeing drivers get away without pursuit.

"The only way to get the message across is to let people know that if they don't stop for police, and go on to commit further crimes while dong so, the only possible sentence is imprisonment.

"The real tragedy is that the community - or some people in the community - is quick to point a finger at police," the judge said.

"It is not the police's fault. They have a responsibility to keep our roads safe."

Head of Northland's traffic police Inspector Murray Hodson supported the comments made by the judge and said the consequences of crashing as a result of being pursued were usually catastrophic at the best of times.

"There is no grey area with the law. If you are followed by red and blue flashing lights and sirens it's simple: Pull over."

This Queen's Birthday weekend more police than ever before will be patrolling Northland's highways.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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