A 24-year-old male rider has been charged with multiple offences after leading a NSW police pursuit then crashing into a garden in the Lake Macquarie area on Wednesday (11 December 2019).
About 12.20pm, police saw a black Harley-Davidson heading south on Merrigum Street, Windale, south of Newcastle.
The rider, Andrew Bell, allegedly attempted to avoid a police breath test unit by using a median strip before “speeding away in a northerly direction”, police say.
A police pursuit followed Bell down Balemo Crescent and Cooreen Way, before the motorcycle “crashed at speed” into a concrete garden bed on Cooreen Way.
“The man then fled the scene, followed on foot by police and the dog unit,” police say.
“Upon searching the motorcycle, police located a small, single shot-handgun lying on the ground.”
Bell was found soon after in a garden on Kestrel Avenue in Mount Hutton.
He was arrested and taken to Belmont Police Station before being transferred to John Hunter Hospital to be treated for minor burns, minor lacerations and a possible broken collarbone.
Upon release from hospital, the 24-year-old was charged with the following offences:
- Drive motor vehicle during disqualification period;
- Acquire pistol-subject to firearms prohibition order;
- Possess unregistered firearm-pistol;
- Not keep firearm safely-pistol;
- Possess unregistered unauthorised pistol in public place; and
- Refuse or fail to submit to taking of blood sample.
Bell was refused bail to appear in Belmont Local Court today.
Details of his appearance are not yet available, however the matter has most likely been adjourned to another date.
The rider is lucky to have escaped with minor injures.
Earlier this week, a Brisbane rider fled from police and later crashed and died. However, in this case, Queensland police did not pursue the rider.
To pursue or not to pursue
While not making any judgements on either of these cases, motorcycle riders typically fail to stop because they are unlicensed, drunk, are close to losing their licence or the vehicle is stolen.
In these cases a police pursuit does not occur.
A leading police study has found the three most pressing issues for police reform around the world are use of force, policing of violence in families and high-speed pursuits.
A 2009 Australian Institute of Criminology study found deaths in custody at police stations are declining but “deaths in custody” as a result of high-speed pursuits were rising.
While less than 1% of police pursuits results in a fatal crash, 38% of the people killed are innocent bystanders.
It’s much worse in the USA where one person dies every day as a result of a police pursuit. Of those deaths, 1% are police, 55% suspects and 44% bystanders.
Most police procedures acknowledge the judgement of the officer at the scene to begin a pursuit.
However, continuation of the pursuit is then deferred to a senior officer at the station or headquarters.
They have to make a quick judgement based on the lethal risk to the community of the chase versus the lethal risk to the community of letting a serious offender escape.
This must be backed by information, not just mere suspicion.
Queensland police figures show only about 3% of pursuits involved imminent threat to life or a suspect escaping after a homicide.
Police have a duty to not only prevent and control crime, but more importantly, they have a duty to protect the community and that includes from their own reckless behaviour and judgement.