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Tougher penalties

Harsher penalties are on the way for drivers fleeing from police.

Police commissioner Andrew Coster announced earlier this week that police would change their pursuit policy after a “significant increase” in fleeing drivers, and fewer culprits caught.

He said the police pursuit policy would be reviewed next year and a Fleeing Driver Framework introduced.

Police reported 99 fleeing drivers in Wairarapa for the year until October 2021, an increase from 59 in 2020, and 72 in 2019.

Wairarapa reported no deaths or serious injuries as a result of fleeing drivers between 2019 and 2021.

Minister of Police Chris Hipkins and Minister of Justice Kiri Allan announced on Wednesday that the government would increase the maximum driver’s licence disqualification period for a second offence of failing to stop, from 12 months to between 12 months and 24 months.

They said a change to the Sentencing Act 2002 would also be made so that a vehicle could be forfeited on conviction for failing to stop.

“Offenders could have their vehicle permanently removed, and would not get any proceeds from the sale back.”

They said the new law would allow police to impound a vehicle for 28 days if the owner failed, refused, or provided false or misleading information about the identity of a driver from a fleeing driver event.

They said the changes meant drivers could be disqualified for longer, have their vehicle seized, or the owner of the car could have their vehicle impounded if they chose not to help police track down the driver of a fleeing vehicle.

“These changes will help police deal with the sort of behaviour that can lead to death and injury on our roads.

“It’s never okay to flee from police and put others’ lives at risk,” Hipkins said.

He said police had said the changes would help discourage people from fleeing because they would be likely to lose their vehicle for longer or for good.

“It also removes the protection currently afforded to the owners of the vehicle if the offender is driving someone else’s car.”

Allan said those who chose to flee from police should be prepared to lose their car.

“There is a safeguard for law-abiding vehicle owners who can prove their car was stolen at the time it was impounded – appeal provisions will be built in so that the vehicle can be released.”

These changes will add to the Criminal Activity Intervention Legislation Bill, which is currently before the select committee.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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