A SEVEN-minute police chase “over half of Tamworth” has landed an Oxley Vale man behind bars for 18 months, after a magistrate said it was lucky “no one was collected”.
William James Murdoch was led into the dock of the Tamworth Local Court on Friday and winked and blew a kiss at supporters seated in the court.
The 28-year-old was charged with numerous offences after he weaved his way through South and West Tamworth when highway patrol officers tried to stop him on May 2.
“Speeds of up to 140km/h in a 50km/h zone,” Magistrate Mal MacPherson detailed in sentencing.
“Crossing four lanes of Goonoo Goonoo Rd without stopping.
“It’s lucky no one was collected.”
Magistrate MacPherson said the incident happened at 9.50pm on a Friday, meaning there was still some traffic on local roads.
“The danger to the public was extremely high,” he said.
“This pursuit went over seven minutes ... over half of Tamworth.”
Murdoch bolted out of the Nissan Maxima after it hit a rural fence when it came to a dead end in Hilton St.
Officers set up a perimeter before apprehending Murdoch, who was hiding in the cubby house of a Wise St home.
Murdoch has been in custody since the chase and initially denied being behind the wheel, telling his solicitor he was a passenger and the name of the person he purported was responsible.
One other person is charged in relation to the police investigation into the pursuit but failed to appear in court when the matter was listed early last week.
Friday’s late pleas by Murdoch came just as the case was set for hearing.
“It’s certainly a serious piece of driving, a serious offence,” solicitor Jason Curtis told the court.
“It falls in the mid-range of objective seriousness.”
Murdoch pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified and police pursuit (Skye’s Law) before police prosecutor Sergeant Rob Baillie withdrew two charges of driving recklessly and exceeding the speed limit by more than 45km/h.
“They were aggravating features to the pursuit,” Sergeant Baillie said of the charges, which were taken into account in sentencing.
Murdoch also pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis, entering inclosed lands and driving an uninsured and unregistered car.
“He sees the police and just panics,” Mr Curtis said.
Mr Curtis asked for a 16-month head sentence with just four months behind bars, saying his client had post-traumatic stress disorder following an accident in which an elderly woman rode out on the road in front of his car when he was 22.
“Things have improved,” Mr Curtis said, adding Murdoch was now being treated.
Magistrate MacPherson sentenced Murdoch to 18 months’ jail with at least nine months without parole, adding Murdoch was “clearly affected by some sort of drug” and had “total disregard for other members of the public”.
After the sentence was handed down, Murdoch turned and winked at his partner, before waving as he was led away to return to the police cells.
He was disqualified from driving for two years and convicted without further penalty on the other offences.
Murdoch will be eligible for release in February next year after time already served.