A coroner has found that police did not cause the collision which killed year old Skye Sassine on 31 December 2009, but that one of the officers involved in the pursuit was “charged with adrenaline” and “thought he was on a racetrack”.
Skye Sassine died when a stolen car driven by William Ngati slammed into the car being driven by her parents on the M5 at Ingleburn during a police pursuit.
Ngati had robbed two convenience stores and was armed with a knife at the time.
Ngati was convicted of manslaughter and robbery offences and was sentenced to jail for 19 years with a non-parole period of 14 years in 2012.
The coroner found that one of the highway patrol officers involved in the dispute went through red traffic lights at 118km/h, through green lights at 160km/h, and on the wrong side of the road at 157km/h. The coroner also found that it was likely that the officer turned of traction control and did a handbrake turn. The coroner commented that such behaviour would have resulted in him failing a police driving test.
The death of Skye Sassine prompted the introduction of “Skye’s Law”, an amendment to the Crimes Act legislation making it an offence jailable by up to 3 years for engaging in a police pursuit.
Whenever someone dies during a police pursuit, a coronial inquest is automatically held: Coroners Act 2009 s 23.
There has been controversy with police pursuits lately, with a toddler killed in Constitution Hill in January this year after a car ran down a backyard fence during a police pursuit.
The 2015 case of Hamish Raj concerned the death of a motorcyclist following a police pursuit. A number of recommendations were made:
That the NSW Police’s Safe Driving Policy, a confidential document which covers the protocol for police pursuits among other driving matters, be reviewed by a panel of independent experts in light of Australian and international experience and research with a view to establishing best practice. The coroner made a huge number of factors which could be considered in the review, including whether the seriousness of the crime should be a factor in deciding to commence a pursuit.
A number of coronial inquests are on foot at the moment dealing with police pursuit deaths – SCD Lawyers will follow any developments in any changes that are announced to police pursuit policy.
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