POLICE have welcomed new laws which will see hoon drivers who engage in police pursuits face three years’ jail.
Premier Ted Baillieu and Police Minister Peter Ryan announced the new laws after a series of high speed pursuits around Australia put lives at risk including more than 700 pursuits in Victoria last year.
Mr Baillieu said the new laws would close gaps in current legislation and send a strong message to would-be offenders that dangerous behaviour would be punished.
“Dangerously or negligently driving while being pursued by police will have serious consequences including up to three years’ jail,” he said.
“There will be a mandatory licence or permit cancellation and disqualification for a period of at least 12 months and it will also be considered a hoon offence that will take the car off the road for a minimum of 30 days and up to three months.”
The new pursuit laws are expected to assist police by clarifying that even if a pursuit is abandoned for public safety reasons or the speed of a police vehicle does not match the speed of the offending vehicle, the offence still stands when the offender is caught.
There is no mandatory minimum term in the proposed legislation, with the decision being left to the courts.
Official statistics show high-speed pursuits have increased annually since 2002. Victorian Police Association secretary Greg Davies said drivers who prompted a police chase could jeopardise every road user and lead to fatalities.
“At last people who put the public in danger will be held accountable for their actions,” he said.
Mr Davies said a police officer’s decision to pursue a fleeing driver can often be made in a split second.
“They’ve got to try to a very large extent yo rely on gut feeling and experience. Do we think this person has committed a serious offence? Or are they just unlicensed?”