A man has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to dangerous driving and placing police at risk.
Thomas Dylan Smith, 31, appeared from custody for sentencing in the County Court on Tuesday.
On the morning of October 15, 2020, Smith went to a Buninyong service station in a blue VX Holden Commodore and filled the car, which had stolen number plates, with almost $80 worth of petrol before driving away without attempting to pay.
During the following two hours and 45 minutes he drove through Buninyong, areas of Ballarat, Ross Creek and Enfield while police in both marked and unmarked cars attempted to intercept him.
Police stopped at intersections and main roads and attempted to deploy stop sticks but on multiple occasions Smith sped away.
The police airwing was called to assist tracking Smith just before 12pm and he was observed speeding and crossing onto the wrong side of the road, with police receiving numerous calls about the erratically driven blue Commodore.
Driving on Bala Street, Sebastopol, he narrowly avoided colliding with a police car and multiple civilians as he turned into Albert Street before he sped through a supermarket car park, through several side streets and back through the car park at an estimated speed of 70 km/h.
He exited the carpark into oncoming traffic and travelled a short distance on the wrong side of the road before crossing the median strip and reaching Sebastopol-Smythesdale Road.
Police attempted to deploy stop sticks at Cambrian Hill but Smith saw it and executed a U-turn and continued to Ross Creek.
There he drove at a police car at an estimated speed of 80km/h, forcing the police car into a ditch to avoid being hit. The car became bogged as a result.
Smith continued along State Forest Road, Enfield, and stopped on an unmarked track in the forest. When a marked police car approached him he sped off along a gravel road and then drove directly at a police car as two detectives attempted to deploy stop sticks.
One detective was forced to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.
As another police car travelled towards Smith on Incolls Road he drove towards them at an estimated speed of about 100km/h, forcing police to swerve onto the grass shoulder to avoid a high-impact collision.
Smith continued speeding up the road where he came across another police unit deploying stop sticks and approached "at a fast rate of speed".
While attempting to avoid the stop sticks he could not stop in time and the wheels locked and were deflated, yet the court heard Smith attempted to accelerate but lost control, skidded and mounted an embankment near where the police car was parked.
Two police were required to take evasive action to avoid being struck, with one running behind a tree and the other forced to run and jump behind the car.
Smith drove over a third set of stop sticks causing the officer holding them to sustain rope burn but continued driving on four deflated tyres.
Police pursued his car on Colac-Ballarat Road with lights and sirens activated.
The court heard Smith had "little control" over the car due to its state and it was driving around sharp bends and veering onto the wrong side of the road and into oncoming traffic.
Smith continued speeding, causing the tyres to rip free of the rims and launching rubber onto the police car pursuing him but continued driving for another four-kilometres.
Police tried to overtake Smith to slow him down but he continued to swerve towards police to stop them passing but one was eventually able to succeed in the manouevre.
Smith swerved across the road as he attempted to pass but police cars then swarmed around him and a "controlled collision" with police brought him to a stop.
Smith was arrested about 12.45pm and taken back to Ballarat Police Station where he returned a positive drug test for methylamphetamine.
During a police interview Smith admitted to the offending.
The court heard he had been disqualified from driving at the time of the offending and it occurred just over two months after he had been placed on a community corrections order.
Earlier this year Smith pleaded guilty to the charges including theft, retaining stolen goods and seven counts of recklessly exposing an emergency worker to risk by driving during the police pursuit.
He also pleaded guilty to driving whilst disqualified and driving whilst impaired by drugs.
In sentencing Judge Allen weighed up the gravity of offending with the need to protect the community, deter Smith and others and denounce and provide punishment for the incident.
He said Smith began drug and alcohol treatment earlier in the year but stopped complying when he relapsed into drug abuse and when he became homeless.
Judge Allen said that while Smith had taken responsibility by pleading guilty the community must also accept some responsibility in the "abject failure in providing strong measures to break these cycles".
There should be more effective, properly funded programs to provide immediate intervention and support upon release from jail of people like you so your transition back into the community is such that everything is done to avoid the real risk of mental health symptoms reemerging, drug abuse relapsing and offending occurring again.- Judge Allen
"There should be more effective, properly funded programs to provide immediate intervention and support upon release from jail of people like you so your transition back into the community is such that everything is done to avoid the real risk of mental health symptoms reemerging, drug abuse relapsing and offending occurring again.
"That did not happen and more often than not it doesn't so you're back in jail and will spend a much longer period in jail."
He took into account Smith's plea, "disadvantaged and troubled background", mental illnesses, drug addiction and the fact he had already "spent lengthy periods in jail as a young man."
He said he still had prospects of rehabilitation but would require significant assistance when he prepares to transition back into the community.
He sentenced Smith to five years in prison with a non-parole period of 3.5 years.
He has spent 30 months in pre-sentence detention.
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