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. Today on the final day of the series, the Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft shares why he changed his mind.
Until recently I was of the view that police vehicle pursuits were always justified in order to uphold the law and send a clear message, to young people in particular, that there would be immediate consequences for law breaking.
But I've changed my mind.
Confronted by the alarming number of young people who die during or following a police pursuit, I realised I could no longer hold that view in good conscience.
It became clear to me that it is unacceptable for us to continue to allow the deaths of so many young people every year as sacrifices to our sense of outrage that the authorities are being defied.
This is especially so when the alleged crimes being committed are mostly not that serious.
I now believe the time is right for us to trial a policy that would have police never pursuing a car if it may be reasonably suspected that the occupants include children or young people, unless there is an imminent threat to carry out a very serious offence.
I've come to the view that police pursuit should never be a factor in the death of anyone, especially not a child or young person.
Accountability demands that when the law is broken, people are held responsible. But this doesn't mean they have to be immediately pursued.
Even without pursuit, good police work will usually ensure alleged offenders will be subsequently apprehended and held to account.
There are reasons why a pursuit involving young people is more likely to end in disaster than others.
Considerable brain development evidence shows that teenagers' pre-frontal brain cortex is not developed enough to allow them to objectively assess risks before and during pursuits.
They are more likely to make rash and reckless decisions than people whose brain is fully developed.
Consequently teenagers are more likely to flee from police, even if they have only committed a minor traffic offence.
This puts not only young drivers but all other road users at increased risk.
Adopting this change in police policy would make a huge difference.
It would be consistent with the approach of other countries.
The numbers killed following pursuits would fall.
Individual police officers would no longer have to deal with being party to the death of young people on our roads.
And the general public would be safe from being caught up in pursuits.
The hard facts are that the tragic consequences of our present pursuit policy can never justify their tragic results.