21 September 2023

Dangerous driver who fled police for 14 minutes was 'clearly' a risk to road users

| Albert McKnight
Man in sunglasses outside court

Kevin Thomas Clarke, 43, has been sentenced by the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A dangerous driver who fled police and led them on a 14-minute car chase across Canberra at speeds of up to 160 km/h with only three wheels has avoided being returned to jail when he was sentenced.

Kevin Thomas Clarke was convicted and sentenced to about two years and seven months’ jail, to be served via an intensive corrections order (ICO), a community-based sentence.

The 43-year-old had appeared in the ACT Supreme Court for a sentencing hearing last month before Justice Louise Taylor handed down her sentence on Friday (15 September).

He had been driving his Volkswagen Jetta in Belconnen at around 2 am on 7 May 2022 when police tried to pull him over, but he refused to stop.

He was soon seen speeding on Barry Drive but again refused to stop for police.

A tyre deflation device was used to destroy his front left tyre in Civic, which fell off entirely on Parkes Way.

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When a police officer tried to deploy another such device on the road, Clarke drove towards him at 120 km/h, causing the officer to run and jump off the road.

“He almost hit me,” the officer said in body-worn camera footage shown to the court.

Clarke continued onto Tuggeranong Parkway, driving at 160 km/h, and drove around streets in Kambah.

“Pieces of metal sheared away from the now bare wheel and struck the pursuing police vehicle,” Justice Taylor said.

He stopped when he drove onto a green belt, then got out of his car and tried to run away. He was arrested after a short pursuit on foot.

He told police he had used “meth” the previous day but the amount he had consumed was “bugger-all”. His Jetta was unregistered and uninsured.

He was then in custody for about eight months before being granted bail over the police chase.

Justice Taylor said the police pursuit was “obvious” to him and he had committed serious offences.

She said Clarke hadn’t caused any actual injury or damage during his driving, but this was “by default and not by design”.

“The offender’s conduct in relation to driving at a police officer was accepted to be reckless and not intentional,” she said.

“That said, his culpability for the entire course of conduct, which clearly posed a risk to police and other road users, is high.”

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Justice Taylor said Clarke had acknowledged his challenge with illicit substance use and reported that he began using cannabis when he was 11 and methylamphetamine at 21.

Before being taken into custody, he was using two points of meth a week, although he claimed he was capable of abstinence when he was released.

He had pleaded guilty to charges that included driving a motor vehicle at a police officer, dangerous driving, failing to stop for police, driving while disqualified and using an unregistered vehicle.

In addition to his ICO, he was also fined $2723, had his licence disqualified and he must reside under a curfew for 12 months.

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