The Chase is a four-day Herald series looking at police pursuits and fleeing drivers. Since January 2008 there have been more than 30,000 pursuits, hundreds of crashes and 79 deaths. The series runs from Monday to Thursday ahead of a joint review of pursuits by police and the IPCA which will be released on Friday.

A man who fled police and led them on a high speed chase through a South Canterbury town has spoken about what motivated him to take off - and why he would consider doing it again in future.

Sonny Littleton, 33, is one of tens of thousands of Kiwi drivers who have fled police since 2008.

The Timaru man spoke to the Herald about the incident in 2015 for an insight into why people fail to stop.


"I was drunk, I'd been at a party," he explained.

"They flashed the red-and-blues (police car lights) at me and I figured I didn't want to stop.

"So yeah, I just took off."

Sonny Littleton says he has fled police twice. The second time he was convicted. But he would consider doing it again in future. Photo / Facebook
Sonny Littleton says he has fled police twice. The second time he was convicted. But he would consider doing it again in future. Photo / Facebook

Littleon said his reaction was "pretty much automatic".

"It was a fight or flight instinct," he said.

"I was worried about being caught drink driving.

"I knew that if I drove too fast or I drove erratically the cops have to stop chasing you - so that's kind of what I was going for."

Littleton said he wasn't worried about hurting himself - or others.


"I considered stopping but then I talked myself out of it," he recalled.

"I stopped when I got home."

Police abandoned the pursuit for safety reasons but caught up with Littleton shortly after he stopped.

He was charged with dangerous driving, driving with excess breath alcohol and failing to stop.

He pleaded guilty to all of the charges and was sentenced to six months' community detention and 12 months' intensive supervision.

The court heard that Littleon sped through central Timaru at 80km/h, drove on the wrong side of the road and at one stage put his Holden in reverse and accelerated backwards towards a patrol car.


He was three times over the legal alcohol limit at the time.

"When I got home, I knew it wasn't over," he said.

"I knew the cops would have my licence plate and know that it was me.

"It wasn't long before they showed up and I thought, 'here we go'."

Littleton said it was not the first time he had fled police.

"I did it once before, I got away," he said.


"I reported the car as stolen, never got in trouble."

Would he do it again?

"Yeah I probably would, I don't have any respect for the law, the police around here are not the best," he said.

"That, and there's a slight chance you'll get away from the cops and get off scot-free."

Littleton did not encourage others to flee though.

"The young kids, the just need to pull over straight away," he said.


"They can't drive for s**t.

"In hindsight it would have been a lot easier for me if I did pull over and got done.

"I wouldn't have had those extra charges that they threw on top of me.

"Fighting with the law, you're not going to win."

Littleton was critical of police pursuits and believed they should be banned.

"For sure they should stop," he said.


"They're just chasing people and causing panic and in those moments you're not thinking straight and that's when these accidents happen.

"I don't know what else they could do to stop them though."

Pursuits - the facts

• Since January 2008 there have been 30,950 police pursuits.

• The number of pursuits has increased steadily each year for the last decade.

• During those pursuits, 79 drivers and passengers were killed.

• Others were also killed including innocent road users.


• Police figures show that pursuits are most likely to happen between 10pm and 6am.

• Crashes are more likely at night.

• The majority of drivers are young males and many are driving stolen cars.

• In most cases the driver was killed and there were a significant number of crashes where multiple passengers also died.