Rammers in the slammer
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The Victoria Government in Australia has introduced new offences and harsher penalties, including a mandatory minimum two-year jail term, for offenders who intentionally ram police vehicles and cause injury.
The Police Association of Victoria (TPAV) reported last month that its “put rammers in the slammer” campaign, which followed a sharp spike in police car rammings (up to three a week), had resulted in the recent changes.
Maximum penalties for intentionally endangering an emergency service worker by driving have been raised to 20 years’ jail.
In April, a 25-year-old man pleaded guilty to leading Melbourne police on a high-speed pursuit in a stolen car in July last year, baiting officers to follow him as he travelled at 130kmh in a 60kmh zone, yelling, “I’m gonna ram ya”.
He drove the vehicle across two lanes of traffic and a median strip, then abruptly stopped and reversed into a police car, with two members inside, and sped away. He was sentenced to five years’ jail.
TPAV secretary Wayne Gatt said the sentencing reflected what the legislation set out to do: “To place a premium on the safety of our members and to eradicate what had become a dangerous criminal scourge in Victoria, the ramming of police vehicles. We have always said there is no excuse for injuring a police officer at work. This sentence affirms that statement.”
Last year in New Zealand, which does not have such specific laws relating to emergency response vehicles, the Police Association expressed concern about the disturbing and dangerous trend here after a spate of incidents in which officers were injured.
In the past two months there have been 10 incidents of police cars being rammed during police pursuits of fleeing drivers.
In December, a police officer’s wrist was shattered when the car he was driving was repeatedly rammed by a meth-fuelled driver. The man faced a raft of charges, including aggravated wounding, failing to stop to ascertain injury and reckless driving, and was jailed for five years.