1 September 2021

Drug-fuelled driver who drove at police before fleeing into Molonglo River sentenced

| Albert McKnight
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ACT Law Courts

Former boilermaker and fruit picker Michael Seymour, 29, pleaded guilty to driving offences. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A drug-fuelled driver sped across Canberra and drove at a police officer on a motorbike before crashing his car and attempting to swim away across the Molonglo River.

According to an ACT Supreme Court judgement released in late August, Michael Seymour was driving a Ford station wagon at about 12:30 am on 16 October 2020 when police tried to pull him over on Kingsford Smith Drive.

But he sped away onto Southern Cross Drive in Holt, reaching speeds of 107 km/h in a 60 zone.

Police followed him as he drove on the wrong side of the road, sped down suburban streets in Macgregor, then returned to Southern Cross Drive and reached 170 km/h before police ended their pursuit.

But shortly afterwards, a police officer riding a motorbike saw Seymour speeding in Macquarie without his headlights on so began to follow him.

On Bindubi Street, Seymour made a handbrake turn, turning his car 180 degrees. He put on his headlights and drove back towards the officer.

When he was about 50 metres away from the officer, he abruptly changed lanes. He accelerated directly at them, coming within about five metres of the motorbike and forcing the officer to drive onto the median strip to avoid a collision.

The police officer continued to follow Seymour, who drove away at 140 km/h before making another handbrake turn to face the officer, which locked his car’s wheels so it slid along the road past the motorbike.

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As he drove off, his car smashed into a guardrail and stopped so he fled on foot.

Shortly afterwards, police found Seymour swimming in the Molonglo River near the crash site and persuaded him to come out of the water.

He was treated by paramedics and tested positive for using methylamphetamine.

Seymour pleaded guilty to charges of driving at police, dangerous driving, driving while disqualified and drug driving.

“One of the great advances in civilisation is the facilitation of transport in a speedier and more flexible way,” Acting Justice Richard Refshauge mused in his June 2021 judgement for the 29-year-old.

“Nothing exemplifies this perhaps more than the motor vehicle, which has liberated many in so many ways.”

But he said, as with any progress, there are opportunities for misuse, which was clearly evident with a car.

“It can be used to facilitate crime and it can cause great injury, even death, thus rendering it able to be used, in effect, as a weapon,” he said.

Justice Refshauge explained Seymour had worked as a boilermaker, cook and fruit picker and was said to have an excellent work ethic.

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“He has, however, a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak, disliking being ‘ordered’ what to do,” he said.

In a letter to the court, Seymour said he was “not a bad person”.

“I’ve lost my way throughout life. I have had my ups and downs with drug use,” he wrote.

Justice Refshauge said Seymour claimed that on the night of his offending he had been homeless and staying in his car because of his drug use.

“He accepted full responsibility for his actions and said that he regretted them immensely,” he said.

He sentenced Seymour to three years and seven months’ jail, backdated to October 2020 to take into account the time he had already spent in custody.

He then suspended the remainder of jail time for a two-year drug and alcohol treatment order followed by a good behaviour order for the rest of his sentence.

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