Chase should have ended earlier: IPCA

A police crash investigation found Luke Savigny was travelling at 150kmh when he crashed near...
A police crash investigation found Luke Savigny was travelling at 150kmh when he crashed near Oamaru, killing his friend, Christopher ‘‘Chipper’’ Blair. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
A police chase which ended in a fatal crash outside Oamaru should have been abandoned earlier, the independent police watchdog says.

Luke Bradley Savigny (25) was jailed for five years and seven months earlier this month before the High Court at Dunedin after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of 32-year-old Christopher "Chipper" Narayan Blair.

Luke
Savigny
Luke Savigny

Savigny had been drinking and using methamphetamine and cannabis before driving north from Dunedin on March 21 last year.

Police received multiple complaints from members of the public as the defendant drove erratically, crossing the centre line and exceeding the speed limit on numerous stretches of State Highway 1.

Shortly before 7am, police saw the defendant passing through Alma, weaving and veering into the wrong lane.

"When the offending vehicle failed to stop, the patrol unit pursued the fleeing driver from a distance," an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) decision said.

Savigny increased his speed to 130kmh.

A few minutes later the officer came across the wreckage. The vehicle was split into two pieces at the intersection of Severn and Wansbeck Sts. A subsequent investigation found Savigny had hit speeds of 150kmh when he lost control, skidding over a footpath, clattering into a 50kmh speed limit sign and hitting five trees. Neither man in the car was wearing a seat belt.

Christopher
 ‘‘Chipper’’ Blair
Christopher ‘‘Chipper’’ Blair

Blair died instantly, while Savigny was hospitalised.

A police investigation found the officer complied with policy at the time of the pursuit but "should have abandoned the pursuit at an earlier opportunity when they lost sight of the offending vehicle approaching the built-up area of Oamaru".

The IPCA said police had identified "several learning opportunities" for both the officer and communication staff involved to improve how they managed similar events in future.

A police spokeswoman said a revised fleeing driver policy released in December last year prioritised safety over immediate apprehension.

"When a fleeing driver is not apprehended at the time, police officers conduct follow-up investigations ... to identify the vehicle and apprehend the driver at a later time. Follow-up investigations have proven successful so although we may not apprehend a fleeing driver immediately, we will."

rob.kidd@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

I am sick of hearing that the police should have 'ended a pursuit earlier'. New Zealand's soft approach to law and order has created a social climate where criminals regularly put the public in danger by fleeing police. Soft judges, concurrent sentencing, and a wonderful 'criminal rights movement' means that criminals rarely serve an extra day in custody for attempting to outrun police. We need to stand behind our police and give them the support they deserve. They should have the resources to terminate the risk a fleeing offender is creating immediately without fear of criticism after the event. Every time the police 'withdraw from a pursuit' innocent members of the public are put at risk. I wish Mr Little would put a little more effort into protecting our police officers and the general public instead of focusing on the rights of criminals.

The same situation has been created with gun crime. Criminals caught with firearms never do an extra day in jail because of concurrent sentencing. The government should focus resources on this instead of diverting the public's attention with new bureaucratic costs targeting law abiding citizens.

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