ACT News


ACT police pursuit policy very sensible: union

The ACT's police pursuit policy is balanced and safe, according to the police union, who have also praised the inquest's description of Justin "Mully" Williams actions in causing one of the city's most shocking crashes.

Four people, including Williams, died when he ran a red light on Canberra Avenue in March 2010.

Williams had been drinking, was unlicensed, and fleeing from NSW police at speeds of up to 157km/h.

Williams was a serial car thief, who police tried to pull over when they noticed him driving erratically in Queanbeyan.

He fled and, after just three minutes, ran the light near the Monaro Highway turn-off, smashing into a car carrying Scott Raymond Oppelaar, his partner Samantha Leanne Ford, and their three-month-old son Brody Oppelaar.

All three were killed instantly, their car torn apart.


Williams and his teenage female passenger Skye Webbe were left stuck in the car with serious injuries.

He tried to fight off paramedics and firefighters as they tried to help him, forcing ambulance officers to subdue him with medication so they could save his life.

But Williams later succumbed to his injuries, and died in hospital.

The findings of the inquest into the deaths were released this week by Coroner Peter Dingwall, following a hearing in 2011, and further evidence in 2012.

Mr Dingwall said no criticism could be made of the NSW police officers, instead placing the blame for the crash solely on the unlawful and reckless actions of Williams.

He recommended that immobilisers be made mandatory for all cars likely to be targeted by thieves, and also that better training programs be put in place in the ACT and NSW for cross-border pursuits.

NSW Police have welcomed those findings, saying the force has already reviewed and enhanced communication training and systems.

The Australian Federal Police Association also welcomed the findings of Mr Dingwall.

The police union has also backed the ACT's current pursuit policy, a day after Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury called for a re-think on chasing criminals over minor crimes.

Chief executive officer Dennis Gellatly said the current guidelines for pursuits set out "very sensible procedures, checks and balances".

"The ACT Policing pursuit policy is a comprehensive balancing of the prevailing circumstances, discretion and judgment of police involved and responsibility of police toward the Community," Mr Gellatly said.

"The Police Association is astutely aware of the challenges for police in deciding whether or not to pursue a fleeing motorist," he said.

"Whilst police should not be banned from pursuits no police officer can ever be criticised for deciding not to pursue."

The police union believes that greater punishments should be meted out to drivers who flee from police, and put the public at risk in the process.

"This is a deliberate action and should attract more severe penalties of an aggravated offence."

The government on Thursday said it would look at Mr Dingwall's recommendation for mandatory immobilisers, but said it already had a voucher scheme giving $200 to help with installations.