Guest Blog by ACT POLICING
People often wonder why police investigations take as long as they do and when they’re involved in one, if there’s anything they can do to help speed up the process.
Police investigations into collisions involving bicycles are treated no differently to any other investigation.
That means ACT Policing officers must ensure they have collected enough evidence to have a reasonable chance of prosecution when allegations are tested in court.
Unfortunately, a case where one person’s word is pitted against another may have less chance of a successful prosecution, this is why independent and corroborating evidence is important and explains why police go to great lengths to gather as much evidence as possible.
Detective Sergeant Paul Hutcheson leads the Major Collison Team within ACT Policing’s Road Policing branch and has more than two decades of police experience under his belt.
He said while technological advances have gifted police with more avenues of evidence collection, new tech doesn’t necessarily translate into a speedy investigation.
“When I started out we were lugging around Polaroid cameras; now, almost everyone has a HD camera in their pocket, CCTV is commonplace and many vehicles have dash-cams constantly recording footage.”
“While police now have access to more data and video evidence than ever before, this also leads to hours and hours of additional unseen investigative work.”
A common misconception is that an incident recorded on video or dash-cam footage should be an open and shut case.
While video evidence provides a massive boost to any investigation, there is still a lot of work to do behind the scenes. Police must prove in court the veracity of the footage demonstrating it was recorded on the correct time and date, in the correct location and if possible corroborate this with additional footage and witness statements. All of which takes time.
Another factor that can add time to an investigation is the process of collecting and reviewing external documents, such as hospital records which can stretch into hundreds of pages. Officers can spend days poring over hours of CCTV and dash-cam footage when it’s available, and forensic reports and scene reconstructions take time to organise and analyse if required.
Detective Sergeant Hutcheson said his officers must also speak to every available witness, an essential but time consuming process, as even the smallest piece of information can have a big impact on an investigation.
“When investigating other crime types such as assault or drug offense, there is typically a pattern of behaviour building up to an event. Road collisions are different in that they often occur in the blink of an eye presenting a challenge for investigators trying to piece together what happened.”
“Even eyewitness accounts can be problematic when things happen so quickly.
“I’ve had cases where I’ve spoken to five different witnesses and they were each absolutely certain the vehicle in question had come from a completely different direction because it all happened so fast.”
Once all the evidence has been collected there are additional checks and balances before the matter proceeds to court. The case officer will present their evidence to their Sergeant for review. The brief of evidence must then progress through two further layers of internal review before it is presented to the Director of Public Prosecutions who argues the case in court.
ACT Policing is committed to a thorough investigations process because police want to get it right. Investigators owe that to the ACT community as well as victims who can take comfort knowing officers leave no stone unturned in the search for evidence.
If you are in a collision:
- Safety is always the first priority, if you or someone else is injured call an ambulance on 000.
- If you need urgent police assistance dial 000, alternatively call 131 444 for police attendance.
- If you are able to, and it is safe to do so, make note of the model, colour and rego of any vehicles involved and exchange details with other individuals involved in the collision. Documenting any injuries by taking a photo every few days can also be helpful.
- Forward and rear cameras as well as go-pro style recorders for bikes are becoming more common, if you have the footage be sure to let police know.
- You can report a collision online through the ACT Policing website.
- Make sure your bike is registered on Bikelinc.com.au so emergency services know who to return it to in the case you have to go to hospital.