Darroch Ball, Law and Order Spokesperson
A Member’s bill has been put in the ballot aiming to fix a flawed law introduced under the previous National Government, which has seen the number of fleeing driver incidents rise exponentially over the past decade, says New Zealand First.
“The current flaw in the law means drivers who ‘flee from police in a dangerous manner’ are legally unable to be charged ever again for that offence - even when they continue to reoffend,” says Darroch Ball, New Zealand First Spokesperson for Law and Order.
“Weak and flawed provisions in the current law mean a fleeing driver usually only faces a fine, or a short period of licence disqualification. The weak response to this serious issue doesn’t act as any sort of deterrent and clearly limits the effectiveness of police and our justice system in trying to stop the surge in fleeing driver incidents,” says Mr Ball.
Between 2009 and 2018, the number of drivers who failed to stop each year increased from around 2000 to close to 4000, with those drivers causing over 400 deaths and serious injuries. It is expected that when the figures for 2018 are released, it will have been the worst year on record for fleeing driver incidents.
“The Land Transport (Fleeing Drivers) Amendment Bill proposes to overhaul the legislation, fix the current flaw, and implement a more comprehensive penalty regime to effectively deter fleeing drivers,” says Mr Ball.
Penalties would be raised, with drivers who fail to stop for police automatically facing mandatory community service sentences.
Importantly, the Bill introduces a new offence ensuring drivers who decide to ‘flee in a dangerous or reckless manner’ face an increased maximum prison sentence of between six and twenty-four months.
There are also increased maximum terms of imprisonment for those who ‘flee causing injury’, and a manslaughter-equivalent maximum sentence of life imprisonment for those who flee causing death.
“The penalties are designed to act as a clear deterrent for those who flee from police and specifically targets repeat offenders.
“Police have been asking for harsher penalties for a long time. They know how much a clear deterrent will help reduce the numbers of drivers fleeing police and risking the lives of innocent people,” says Mr Ball.