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Time For Police To Stop Chasing Young Drivers

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft is calling on Police to stop pursuing young drivers, except in very rare circumstances, following an IPCA report today criticising a chase that ended in the death of a Christchurch man.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority<https://www.ipca.govt.nz/Site/publications-and-media/2020-media-releases/2020-oct-15-fatal-police-pursuit-christchurch-.aspx> today found the pursuit a 17-year-old driver in October last year should never have started and posed more of a risk to the public than letting the young driver go. The pursuit ended in the tragic death of Mr Kenneth McCaul.

“If we know young people are more likely to be killed or to harm others as a result of a police pursuit, then the policy of chasing them should change[1],” Commissioner Becroft says.

“It’s good that Police have been working on a culture change and training recruits in the dangers involved with chasing young drivers.

“But when the objective for young drivers is sometimes the chase itself, the more courageous thing for an officer to do may well be to back off.

“We would like to see a change of policy to ensure there is never a pursuit if there are reasonable grounds to suspect a driver or occupant in the vehicle is under 18 years old, unless in cases of homicide, or the risk of a very grave event.

“Young people’s brains have not developed enough to allow them to fully assess risks before and during pursuits. This makes them more likely to flee even if they’ve only committed a minor offence.”

Queensland does not allow police pursuits in any case except those involving murder, attempt to murder or other very serious offences. Despite a similar population as New Zealand<https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/102180147/police-pursuits-how-new-zealand-compares-with-australia>, Queensland had just 126 pursuits and no related deaths in 2016 compared with 3323 pursuits and 7 deaths in New Zealand.

“While we support the recommendations of the IPCA for greater use of technology to avoid dangerous pursuits, we think it’s time for police to change its policy and not allow the pursuits of children and young people in the first place.

“Modern policing techniques make it easier for children and young people to be tracked down later, usually at home.

“It’s time for Police to abandon pursuits involving cars with young drivers or passengers. The stakes are just too high,” Commissioner Becroft says.

 

The Office of the Children's Commissioner advocates for the best interests of all children and young people in New Zealand and looks to ensure all their rights are respected and upheld.

[1] Between 2014 and 2017, police pursuits resulted in 22 deaths, five of which were of children under the age of 18 (Source Fleeing Drivers in New Zealand<https://www.police.govt.nz/sites/default/files/publications/fleeing-driver-review-report.pdf> report, NZ Police)

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