Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Highway cop convicted over high speed chase

Robert Mash.
Robert Mash.

A Highway Patrol cop has been convicted of dangerous driving and disqualified for three months after a botched pursuit where he crashed a police car while driving at speed on the wrong side of the road.

Constable Robert Mash, 43, was charged with dangerous driving after the incident on November 17, 2011.

Court documents revealed Mash was pursuing a vehicle believed to be stolen on Oteha Valley Rd at 9am. He had his lights and siren going and was travelling at high speed. The vehicle shot through a chicane on to the wrong side of the road and as Mash followed he clipped a concrete barrier and lost control of the patrol car.

In the North Shore District Court in February, Mash said he felt that if he did not continue to follow the fleeing driver, other road users would be in "peril" and could have been seriously injured or killed.

However, police submitted there was no evidence that the public were in immediate danger at the time.

They said Mash had been ordered to abandon the pursuit but failed to do so. Instead he continued to drive at speed on the wrong side of the road towards oncoming traffic.

They said Mash acted "contrary to all police training" with regard to pursuing fleeing vehicles and it was "simply unacceptable" to cross the centreline.

On November 8, Judge Lawrence Hinton convicted Mash and disqualified him from driving for three months. He was denied a discharge without conviction but Judge Hinton did grant him a partial disqualification under section 81 of the Land Transport Act.

Judge Hinton said he had some sympathy for Mash, who apart from the incident had an "exemplary" police record.

"There were ... explanations for your having taken the action you did, but at the end of the day my decision was, this was dangerous driving," Judge Hinton said at sentencing. "I do not overlook the fact that throughout you were acting in complete good faith in the course of your duty as a police officer."

Mash, who went on annual leave on November 11 until February, has appealed against his conviction and sentence.

"Since his conviction and sentence, the constable has been engaged in alternative duties that do not involve driving," said Waitemata road policing manager Inspector Mark Fergus.

"The fact that police charged this constable and put the matter before the courts highlights that our staff are as accountable for their actions whilst driving as any other motorist would be."

- NZ Herald

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