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A 20-year-old Sydney woman was allegedly pulled over by armed and masked police impersonators in the early hours of the morning, in what she described as a ‘genuinely terrifying’ ordeal.
Caitlyn Laws claims that she was chased by a silver Holden Commodore with flashing blue and red lights at Bidwill in Sydney’s northwest at about 1:30am.
Laws then stopped her car and was reportedly ordered to exit.
“I automatically pulled over assuming it was undercover police and sat in my car waiting for them to come over to me. I then heard them screaming and telling me to ‘get the f**k out the car with your hands up.” she recounted.
The woman immediately drove away upon realising the men in the car were not police officers, explaining: “I knew straight away this wasn’t right.”
The car began to follow after her and stopped their pursuit after she entered a roundabout.
She has warned others to make sure they lock their doors and keep their windows up, commenting: “if I did what the (sic) told me to do god knows what would’ve happened to me.”
Police also allege that the same vehicle drove aggressively behind another car before activating blue and red lights.
The 31-year-old driver stopped his car on Luxford Road and the Commodore pulled up directly next to him.
The driver noticed the occupants in the car wearing dark-coloured clothing with hooded jumpers and masks covering their faces.
He reported that the back passenger was holding a knife and another man in the car had a handgun.
The Commodore reportedly drove off after witnesses came out of a nearby house.
Inquiries are reported to be continuing as to the identity of those within the car.
A New South Wales Police spokesperson has commented that there are key tells drivers could use to verify they were being pulled over by a legitimate officer.
“Police officers are easily distinguished by their full uniform and wear appointment belts while plain clothes police will always carry and produce official identification if asked,” the spokesperson said.
“Anyone stopped by an unmarked vehicle with blue and red flashing lights, should ask for identification, obtain the vehicle registration and contact police immediately to confirm the legitimacy of those on board.”
In NSW, it is an offence to impersonate a police officer, pursuant to section 546D(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
A person can be charged and convicted if they do or say something that gives the impression that they are a police officer.
The maximum penalty applicable is two years in jail and/or a fine of $11,000.
This is a ‘summary offence’ which means that it will ultimately be dealt with in the Local Court.
However, the offence is considered ‘aggravated’ where a person not only impersonates an officer but purports to exercise a power or function as a police officer, with intent to deceive.
This can include conduct such as pretending to be a police officer in order to stop someone’s vehicle, ‘arrest’ someone, or search someone’s home or vehicle.
If found guilty of this aggravated offence, the maximum penalty applicable is 7 years imprisonment.
A possible defence available to a person accused of impersonating a police officer includes that the conduct was engaged in solely for satirical purposes.
For example, purely dressing up as a police officer for a costume party would be considered satirical purposes.
Questions? Get in touch with our criminal lawyers Parramatta based today.