It’s hard to ignore the debate that arises every now and again in the media about police chases. There are advocates who believe that if police can’t engage in high-speed pursuits then the entire of Sydney will be swamped with criminals, while others argue that the chases are too dangerous. Whatever side of the fence you are on you can’t deny that if someone were to be injured in a police chase then they should be duly compensated. You don’t have to be a lawyer to figure that one out.
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At the start of this year Susan Delaney was awarded more than nine million dollars in compensation after a high-speed pursuit in 2006 left her with brain injuries that have severely affected her ability to function and have a normal life.
The chase lasted 40 kilometres after police noticed that a motorcyclist was a member of the outlaw motorcycle gang Odin’s. This motorcyclist was Delaney’s then-boyfriend and she was sitting on the back of the motorcycle.
The chase only came to an end when the motorcycle crashed, resulting in Delaney’s boyfriend dying.
The main reason it took so long for Delaney to receive compensation was the existence of arguments that suggested that she had in some way contributed to the accident. There were also arguments that asked why she didn’t get off the motorbike at some point before the fatal crash.
However, this also proved to be the crux of the defendant’s argument.
In court Delaney argued that the police hadn’t even realised she was on the motorbike at all during the chase. Perhaps if she’d somehow been taunting or egging on police than she would’ve contributed to the accident but as they were unaware of her presence it could be seen that Delaney was entirely passive in the matter.
Delaney’s entire focus was on staying alive – she hadn’t wanted to enter this chase but had been pulled along into it.
Susan Delaney’s case will prove to be a landmark case in the realm of police chases and contributory negligence. In any other sort of incident she’d simply be seen as being in the wrong place at the wrong time but the circumstances of the case made details and evidence murky to say the least.