Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT
Tabled paper 934
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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66 perhaps a culmination of the preceding factors, was the risk that Officer A, faced with these many challenges, would not be able to maintain an adequate watch on the complainant and control of the vehicle, with the potential to collide with the complainant. This did eventuate. I acknowledged that Officer As conduct must be assessed against all the circumstances. The time between him turning into the west bound lane to impact was in the vicinity of 2.5 seconds. He did not have the luxury of an extended time to consider his options. He was not in a position to carefully weigh all the risks discussed above. His actions must be judged in that context. However, this does not mean that every action can be excused because time was short. Where, as in this case, the action that presents itself to mind is very much beyond the ordinary and is likely to raise a range of risks (even if not all immediately identifiable), a real question should arise as to whether it is better to hold off for a few seconds to more fully consider the available options. In the absence of dire circumstances, it may well prove preferable to stop and weigh up the alternatives before taking urgent, extraordinary and risky measures. There may be situations where urgent and more risky action is called for. An immediate threat of physical harm or the escape of a violent offender may tip the scales in favour of such action. However in this case, Officer A was aware that the offender, while fleeing from police, was thought to have trespassed and possibly committed unlawful entry. These offences are not at the more serious end of the scale. There was no suggestion he was a violent offender. It would have been helpful for Officer A to cut him off or at least delay him to allow police to catch up with him but the potential benefit of his actions could be put no more highly than that. I accepted that Officer A did not necessarily know the precise course of complications that would arise due to his decision to intercept the complainant in the way he did. But where an officer is stepping so far outside the normal course of action, this very fact should lead to a level of circumspection before action. This pause may have allowed the complainant to evade police for longer but would have avoided the risks discussed above and the collision which, by luck for all involved, ended without more serious injury. Action in relation to Officer A NT Police prepared a brief of evidence and obtained advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to prospects of criminal proceedings against Officer A. That advice was in effect that there was no reasonable prospect of a prosecution succeeding. NT Police concluded that Officer A should be given managerial guidance under section 14C of the Police Administration Act (the PAA) for having failed to comply with: the Code of Conduct and Ethics (section 20), not bringing discredit to, or adversely affecting, the police force; Operational Safety and Use of Force (Operational Safety Principles), particularly relating to Safety first and Risk assessment principles; Instructions to Members Attending Defensive Tactics Requalification. Contrary to the view expressed by NT Police, I considered there was also evidence to support a finding that Officer A committed a breach of discipline in that he was negligent or careless in terms of section 76(b) of the PAA, in the actions that led up to the collision, although I considered that careless more aptly described the situation.
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