6 Dec 2010

Minister defends police over pursuits

2:04 pm on 6 December 2010

Police Minister Judith Collins says she's confident the police are doing all they can to ensure public safety, despite the deaths of 19 people this year following police chases.

The latest fatalities occurred in Auckland during the weekend when two people were killed in separate crashes.

A 33-year-old male driver died at the scene of the crash in Mangere at about 11.30pm on Saturday.

Police say the pursuit began after a car was seen travelling at more than 100 km/h in a 50 km/h zone on Kirkbride Road. The car crashed about 30 seconds into the pursuit.

In a separate incident, on Sunday afternoon, four occupants of a stolen car were flung from a vehicle when it crashed into a ditch after fleeing police in Botany. A woman passenger, admitted to Middlemore Hospital with critical injuries, later died.

Ms Collins told Morning Report the public expect officers to enforce the law.

"The police cannot be expected to stand by and let these drivers who use their vehicles as weapons to go out on the road, drive dangerously and then get away with it."

The minister says every such incident is referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and police policy on chases has been reviewed six times.

She says fewer people are killed on the road these days than 30 years ago, more police officers are out there enforcing the law and the roads are generally much safer.

Police Association vice-president Chris Cahill says harsher penalties are needed to deter people speeding from police.

Mr Cahill says the police have to consider a raft of factors before deciding whether to pursue someone.

He says the majority of accidents happen in the first 15 - 30 seconds, when often people aren't aware they're being pursued.

Media restrictions urged

Meanwhile, the group Media Matters is calling on the Government to put heavy restrictions on violent images, including car chases, in the media.

The group's president John Terris says some young men are influenced by chases portrayed on television, movie screens, video games and the internet.