An ACT coroner has found Canberra police officers breached pursuit guidelines in a chase that reached speeds of 187 kilometres per hour and ended in the death of Timothy Smith Brown.
- Coroner finds police did not follow pursuit guidelines
- Chase ended in crash that killed driver Timothy Smith Brown
- Mr Smith Brown’s partner was seriously injured and gave birth that night
Mr Smith Brown died in September 2015 after he ran a red light and smashed into another car as he fled police, who were chasing him because his car was suspected of being unregistered and he was thought to be unlicensed.
The court viewed dramatic dash cam footage from the police car during the hearings about the incident.
Mr Smith Brown’s pregnant girlfriend, who was in the car, was also badly injured and gave birth to their son later that evening, the final report said.
A couple in the other car were also seriously injured, and one of their two granddaughters suffered a broken collar bone.
The inquest heard that during the three minutes of the chase Mr Smith Brown drove down a median strip to get past stationary cars, and later along a bike lane, followed by the police.
Coroner Peter Morrison found Mr Smith Brown died as a result of his own actions, but that police should have called off the pursuit much earlier, under the guidelines in place at the time.
“Even making a generous allowance for the pressure under which the officers found themselves, I do not accept that those matters justify the failure to convey to the pursuit controller … important information about the speed of the Mitsubishi Magna and the pursuit vehicle … earlier than when that information was in fact conveyed,” he said.
He also said both police officers, Constable Michael Noble and Senior Constable Ben Stone, should share the responsibility.
“The failure to convey the information is a failure on the part of both of them,” he said.
“The AFP submission that it is unfair to attribute responsibility to Constable Noble because he was a very junior officer on his second day on the job is not to the point.”
Mr Morrison did however acknowledge it was unclear if calling off the pursuit earlier would have prevented the accident.
Mr Smith Brown’s mother Jo Smith welcomed the Mr Morrison’s findings.
“The police should have called off the pursuit sooner, and if they had of maybe he’d still be alive today,” she said.
“I know he did the wrong thing initially but he did not deserve to die for being an unregistered and unlicensed driver.
“His son does not deserve to grow up without a father and I do not deserve to live the rest of my life grieving for my son.”
Ms Smith said her son would be sorely missed by his family.
“He was just a beautiful caring loving person — the world is a little bit darker place, and in my life and the lives of people who loved him there will always be an empty space,” she said.
Ms Smith also welcomed Mr Morrison’s endorsement of a new police pursuits policy introduced since the accident.