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Section 51B Crimes Act 1900
Police Pursuits (‘Skye’s Law’)

Section 51B is a relatively new amendment to the Crimes Act 1900, which created the offence of ‘police pursuits.’

This offence is often referred to as ‘Skye’s Law,’ named after 19 month old Skye Sassine, who was tragically killed on New Years’ Eve 2009 when two alleged robbers crashed into the car that she was travelling in during a police chase.

Section 51B now says that you can be charged with evading a ‘police pursuit’ if the prosecution proves that:

  • You were driving a vehicle;
  • You knew, or should have known that you were being followed by police, and you knew or should have known that you were required to stop;
  • You did not stop as requested;
  • You then proceeded to drive recklessly or at a dangerous speed.

If you’re found guilty of evading a police pursuit, you could face a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment, however this is the absolute maximum and will only apply in the most serious cases.

The Legislation

Section 51B of the Crimes Act is the offence of “Police Pursuits (‘Skye’s Law’)” and reads as follows:

51B Police pursuits

(1) The driver of a vehicle:

(a) who knows, ought reasonably to know or has reasonable grounds to suspect that police officers are in pursuit of the vehicle and that the driver is required to stop the vehicle, and

(b) who does not stop the vehicle, and

(c) who then drives the vehicle recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to others,
is guilty of an offence.

Maximum penalty:

(a) in the case of a first offence–imprisonment for 3 years, or

(b) in the case of an offence on a second or subsequent occasion–imprisonment for 5 years.

(2) In this section, “vehicle” has the same meaning as it has in section 52A.

Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.

    Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.

    Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.

    Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.

    We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.

    The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.

    We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.

    We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.

    This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.

    And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.

    All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.

    An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.

    Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.

    The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.

    Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.

    Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.

    A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.

    Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

Recent Cases

No Criminal Record Despite Pleading Guilty to Skye’s Law

Our client is a dentist in rural NSW. She is often required to attend several clinics in different areas on any one day. She was rushing from one clinic to another at 150kp/h when police activated their lights and siren to pull her over. She panicked and accelerated to 216kp/h, leading police on a 3 kilometre pursuit, before pulling over. She admitted knowing police were behind her and accelerating away, and was charged with ‘police pursuit’, ‘drive recklessly/manner dangerous’ and ‘speed by more than 45kp/h’. Our defence team had the reckless driving and speeding charges withdrawn, and our client pleaded guilty to a single count of ‘police pursuit’. We also had the police ‘facts’ significantly amended, including the deletion of any reference to her weaving around other cars. Her matter was then adjourned for a sentencing hearing. In preparation for the sentencing, our lawyers engaged a psychologist to prepare a report which explained the enormous stress our client was under in the weeks preceding the incident, and on the morning very morning it occurred. It also detailed her shame and remorse for having committed the offence, and the fact her actions were impulsive and committed out of panic. We also assisted her in obtaining references and letters attesting to her invaluable contributions to local rural communities, including work she had undertaken free-of-charge for those who could not afford her services, and the enormous impact that a loss of licence would have on her and the communities she services. Lengthy submissions were made in court relating to those and other matters, which ultimately convinced the magistrate to order a section 10(1)(b) bond in her favour – which means she has no criminal record and keeps her licence. This is despite a number of speeding and other matters being recorded on her driving history. The case is the only recorded section 10 for a ‘Skye’s law’ matter in NSW. Our client is able to remain conviction-free and continue to service regional communities in NSW.

Client Avoids Conviction after Police Pursuit at 216km/h

Police pursuit, also known as ‘Skye’s law’, is treated seriously by the courts.

The latest sentencing statistics for Skye’s law cases show that 933 cases came before the courts in the past 4 years.

Of those cases, 387 people were sent to prison (41%), 177 received ‘suspended prison sentences’ (19%), 155 received good behaviour bonds with a criminal conviction (ie ‘section 9 bonds’, 16%) and 125 received community service orders (13%).

Only 1 person out of 933 avoided a criminal conviction by getting a ‘section 10’; which means guilty but no criminal record.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers® recently represented a 27 year dentist whose job involves travelling long distances between various locations.

She was driving between appointments at a speed of 213kp/h in a 110kp/h zone when she saw the flashing lights of a police car behind her.

She initially slowed down but then sped up to a speed of 216kp/h in an attempt to evade police.

She was chased for 6 km before she slowed down to a stop.

She was charged with (1) Dangerous driving not occasioning death / GBH, (2) Police pursuit (Skye’s law), and (3) Speeding by over 45 km/h

She had a strong need for a driver licence and, under the direction of our Senior Lawyer Jimmy Singh, completed the Traffic Offender Program and obtained an excellent report from our recommended psychologist.

Reference letters were also obtained indicating that a criminal conviction could have impeded her future career prospects.

Mr Singh managed to persuade police to drop the charges of ‘dangerous driving’ and ‘speeding by over 45km/h’ and our client pleaded guilty to ‘police pursuit’ only.

He also managed to significantly amend the police ‘facts’.

Mr Singh then persuasively presented the case in court and succeeded in convincing the Presiding Magistrate not to record a conviction against our client by awarding her a ‘section 10’.

This also means that there is no licence disqualification and no fine.

Our client is free to get on with her life and her career.

Not Guilty of all charges including Aggravated Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death

A Jury in Downing Centre District Court found our 22 year old client 'not guilty' of all charges after a hard-fought two week trial involving extensive expert evidence.

Our client faced charges of Aggravated Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death, Dangerous Driving Occasioning Death, Negligent Driving Occasioning Death and Police Pursuit ('Skye's Law').

The charges arose from an incident on 19th February 2011 when our client and another young man were travelling on a motorcycle owned by our client at detected speeds of more than 120km/h in a 50km/h zone on River Road, Greenwich NSW.

They travelled past a stationary roadside RBT and police began a pursuit.

Their motorcycle lost control and crashed, tragically causing the young man's death.

The prosecution alleged that our client was the rider and the deceased was the passenger.

They relied upon the police in-car footage, eye-witness testimony and expert pharmacological and accident reconstruction evidence.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers® engaged experts to contradict that evidence and succeeded in having parts of the prosecution material excluded.

The jury unanimously found our client not guilty of all charges.

Skye's Law Appeal Successful

In Wollongong District Court, Sydney Criminal Lawyers® successfully appealed a decision by Batemans Bay Local Court to imprison a 24 year old Canberra man for 'police pursuit' and 'mid range drink driving'.

The man had been represented by other lawyers in the Local Court.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers® listed and conducted the Appeal within a week of being approached by his family.

The man was given 'suspended sentences' and released from custody, much to the joy of his family.

Charges Dismissed in 'Skye's Law' Case

All charges were dismissed our 40-year old client after the magistrate found that he did not know, and 'could not reasonably have known' that police were pursuing him. Our client was riding his motorcycle on en route to Canberra from Sydney. Police activated their lights and siren from a distance of approximately 100 metres behind our client. Police alleged that, upon their sirens being activated, our client increased his speed to over 160kph and attempted to evade them for approximately two kilometres. Our client was adamant that he did not see the police nor hear their sirens, and that he pulled over immediately upon seeing them alongside his bike. Police refused to withdraw charges of 'police pursuit' and 'speed by more than 45kph', and the matter proceeded to a defended hearing in Hornsby Local Court. The magistrate was "unimpressed" by police testimony in relation to speed and our client's alleged conduct. In particular, police did not record the speed on a radar device and the magistrate was not satisfied they could see our client looking into the bike's small rear-view mirror. Her Honour came to the view that our client's testimony was credible and dismissed all both of the charges against him.

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