Coroner's Court of Western Australia

Inquest into the Death of Warren Keith MATTHEWS

Inquest into the Death of Warren Keith MATTHEWS

Delivered on : 14 September 2022

Delivered at : Perth

Finding of : State Coroner R V C Fogliani

Recommendations : Yes

Recommendation No. 1
I recommend that the Western Australia Police Force give priority to securing funding and implementing the installation of “dash cam” technology in all police vehicles that undertake emergency driving, along with the associated infrastructure and personnel to manage and review footage.  The technology should provide for real time live feed of footage to the Police Operations Centre, so that this information can be used by the Duty Inspector or Team Leader as part of their decision making when supervising an Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident.

Recommendation No. 2

I recommend that the Western Australia Police Force give priority to inserting a provision in the WA Police Intercept Driving Policy and Guidelines instructing that a driver involved in an Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident that has been terminated must conduct an overt action to display that the driver of the police vehicle has ceased their Evade-Police driving and is completely disengaged from the vehicle of interest.

 Recommendation No. 3

I recommend that the Western Australia Police Force give priority to clarifying, in the WA Police Intercept Driving Policy and Guidelines, that the conditions regarding a re-engagement of a vehicle of interest are to be complied with whenever an Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident is terminated, whether that termination decision is made by the Police Operations Centre, or by the police officer involved in the incident.

Orders/Rules : No

Suppression Order : Yes

That there be no reporting or publication of the details of any of the versions of the WA Police Emergency Driving Policy and Guidelines, including, but not limited to, any cap on the speed at which police officers are authorised to drive.

Summary :  Warren Keith Matthews (Mr Matthews) was 27 years old when he died on 22 October 2020 from a head injury he sustained as a result of a traffic collision that occurred shortly after Western Australia Police officers terminated an Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident that he was the subject of. As the death of Mr Matthews occurred in context of an Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident, an inquest was mandatory under s22(1)(b) of the Coroners Act 1996 (WA) to examine the conduct of police in their interactions with Mr Matthews.

On 21 October 2020, police officers from the Busselton Police Station attended an address in Broadwater following reports of an abandoned vehicle, a Ford Falcon, which had a very distinct paint job. Officers identified the vehicle's one remaining registration plate as being incorrect for the vehicle and as such removed it, and marked the vehicle with an orange 'vehicle reported' sticker before departing.

Later that day, Mr Matthews attended the address and drove the vehicle away.

Upon receipt of information that the vehicle was being driven, officers who had earlier attended began patrolling, and at 1.08 pm whilst driving, the officers located the vehicle, activated their lights and sirens and directed the driver to pull over. When Mr Matthews failed to comply with this direction, the officers accelerated to follow him, thus initiating the Evade-Police Intercept Driving incident.  They promptly advised over the police radio that they were pursing the vehicle. This course of action was shortly terminated based upon the officers’ risk assessment. The officers disengaged by turning off their lights and sirens, removing their vehicle from the road for a short period.

Following this disengagement, Mr Matthews continued to drive in a dangerous manner and minutes later he lost control of the vehicle, veering across Bussell Highway and colliding with a stationary truck parked on the verge of the highway. Assistance was immediately rendered on scene by civilians and a retired military officer, with police and ambulance services arriving approximately five minutes later. Mr Matthews was conveyed to Busselton Hospital and then to Royal Perth Hospital (RPH).  Despite best efforts, he was unable to be revived and he was pronounced deceased the next day.

The State Coroner found that Mr Matthews died from a head injury, sustained when the vehicle he was driving collided with a stationary vehicle on the verge of Bussell Highway. At the time, Mr Matthews was incapable of safely driving the vehicle due to a level of intoxication, he was not wearing a seatbelt and the vehicle was found to have a number of defects in subsequent examinations. While the State Coroner found that the manner of death was accidental, and the police did not cause, or contribute to his death, her Honour made three recommendations aimed at adding some layers of restraint, and transparency, to mitigate the inherent risks associated with Evade-Police Intercept Driving incidents in the future.

Catchwords: Evade Police Intercept Driving – pursuits - dash cam - accident

Last updated: 21-Oct-2022

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