Coroner calls for overhaul of police pursuit policy

Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas. Photo: The Dhadjowa Foundation / Facebook

Victorian Coroner John Olle has found that a high-speed police pursuit resulting in the death of Gunnai, Gunditjamara and Wiradjuri man Raymond Noel Lindsay Thomas in 2017 was unjustified.

Raymond Noel, as he was known to his family, had committed no crime. He had merely gone out on the night of his death to buy chocolates from a supermarket.

After he left the shop, police decided to follow him because his car looked “dodgy". The police looked up the car’s number plate on their onboard computer. After finding out it was unregistered, they accelerated to 100 km/hour in five seconds.

Raymond Noel, who feared the police because of early childhood experiences, sped up. Both cars reached 150 km/hour before Raymond Noel's car crashed and he died, only a minute after being spotted by police.

Raymond Noel's father told the inquest that when his son was 10 years old, two police officers had handcuffed him and threatened to shoot him.

The coroner, in his finding issued on September 20, commented: “Whilst we'll never know why Raymond Noel took flight, the potential contribution of his adverse experiences with police cannot be excluded.”

Olle called for a change in Victoria Police’s pursuit policy. He said that no pursuit should ever take place unless the driver posed a serious risk to the safety of others. It should not occur just because the driver is trying to get away from the police.