Section 754 of the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) (“the Act”) makes it an offence for the driver of a motor vehicle to fail to stop that vehicle as soon as reasonably practicable upon receiving directions to stop from a police officer using a police service vehicle.
The test for what is deemed to be ‘reasonably practicable’ is set out in s 754(2) of the Act to mean when a reasonable person would stop in those circumstances. Pursuant to s 754(5) of the Act however, if there is evidence to suggest that actions were taken to ‘avoid being intercepted by a police officer’, this will be sufficient to warrant a conviction for evasion.
The maximum penalty that may be imposed on a person convicted of this offence is 200 penalty units ($22,000) or 3 years imprisonment, however a significant aspect of this offence are the mandatory provisions. A conviction under this provision carries mandatory minimum penalties and a mandatory licence disqualification period.
The extent of the minimum penalty imposed for a conviction will depend upon whether the driver is a participant in a criminal organisation or not. For a driver to be classified as being a participant in a criminal organisation, they must come within the scope of the definition contained in s 60A Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), whereby they are a participant in a criminal organisation by way of either seeking to be a member, or asserting their membership, or attending meetings or gatherings, or taking part in the affairs of the organisation. Drivers who are found to be within this category, are subject to a mandatory minimum penalty of 100 penalty units or 100 days imprisonment in a correctional facility.
All other persons convicted, who do not class as being a participant in a criminal organisation, face a mandatory minimum penalty of 50 penalty units or 50 days imprisonment in a correctional facility. These are harsh minimum punishments for the offence and the discretion in sentencing has to an extent, been taken out of the court’s hands by the government.
It is important to note the use of the words ‘correctional facility’ in these provisions. Following an amendment to the Act, it is now mandatory that the minimum imprisonment periods are served wholly in a correctional facility. This has effectively removed the potential for the granting of parole or alternative sentencing options such as probation and suspended sentences.
In addition to a mandatory penalty or imprisonment period, any person convicted of an offence pursuant to this section also faces a mandatory disqualification from holding a Queensland driver licence for a period of 2 years.
It is argued that the purpose of introducing mandatory penalties for committing an evasion offence under this provision is to reduce the instances of police pursuits by imposing significant deterrents that align with the policies of the Queensland Police Service.