What is the Law on Impersonating an Emergency Services Vehicle in NSW?

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.

 

Last week we brought you a guide on what you should do when you hear or see an emergency vehicle siren in NSW.

Indeed, it is seemingly obvious how to respond. Nevertheless, many motorists, despite journeying on roads every day, simply don’t know the correct way to respond when they encounter an emergency vehicle.

But imagine if it turned out the emergency vehicle was actually fake.

That it was simply a truck modified so realistically that it was able to mislead other motorists that it was, in fact, an emergency vehicle.

This was the very scenario that transpired when a Melbourne teenager was busted after spending weeks masquerading as an emergency services worker roaming around the streets in his customised white truck.

The 16-year-old made his truck look so realistic with flashing lights fitted on the roof and a siren that motorists, in fact, pulled to the side the let his vehicle pass by.

 

How the Teenager was Caught Driving in his Fake Emergency Vehicle

It is reported that for several weeks leading up to October 2017, the boy, who was believed to be on his learner driver licence, drove around Melbourne in his bogus emergency vehicle kitted out with over $100,000 in sirens, lights and gear.

While the truck did not have any specific signage or identification, with its realistic looking flashing lights, horn and spotlight, it was persuasive enough that he even managed to speed through a major tunnel on one occasion while the truck’s lights flashed and sirens blared.

On 17 October, however, the boy was spotted by Heavy Vehicle Crime Investigation Unit detectives in online footage, which showed him driving through traffic on Beach Road in St Kilda and Elwood with his emergency lights flashing, while cars moved to get out of the way.

The 16-year-old was arrested in the affluent beachside suburb of Brighton.

He had been responding to traffic crashes and even assisted people at the scenes of several accidents.

The truck was seized by police.

 

“Recipe for Disaster”: Police Assert Teenager’s Behaviour Unlike Anything They Have Seen Before 

Responding to the footage, Senior Constable Fritz Ebert said the truck and the driver’s behaviour were unlike anything he had seen in his five years with the heavy vehicle unit.

“We have the situation of a 16-year-old unaccompanied inexperienced driver, driving at peak hour traffic,” Senior Constable Ebert said.

“It would seem he’s been attending, trying to get vehicles out of the way and then getting out, and I guess pretending to be an emergency service helping away at a scene.

“You can imagine a vehicle exceeding the speed limit, it’s a light truck, he doesn’t have any qualifications that would allow him to breach the road rules, so it’s a bit of a recipe for disaster.”

In the footage, motorists could be seen swerving out of the way to make room for what they believed was a truck on its way to a crash.

“He was just going down the right lane with everyone getting out of the way,” Senior Constable Elbert continued.

“He just looked like a legitimate emergency services vehicle.”

Other witnesses claimed they had noticed the truck around other parts of the city, including Melbourne’s CBD, dating back six weeks.

 

Boy “Genuinely Wanted to Help People”

Meanwhile, speaking to 7 News, the boy claimed he simply wanted to help people and carried on in his truck for good intentions.

“It was all for good intentions. I fitted [the truck] out with blue and red lights and just responded to emergencies that I got through the Emergency Management Victoria app,” he said.

“I genuinely wanted to help people.”

The teenager said he responded to 30 or 40 crash scenes in the space of a month.

When he would arrive at the scene, he would help people who were injured, telling them he was trained in emergency response.

“A lot of people think I was untrained when arriving, but I did do my paramedics course, trained in rescue and medics. I didn’t give untrained CPR,” he said.

No charges have been laid as yet.

If you ever find yourself charges, read our article on how to represent yourself in court.

 

What is the Law on Impersonating an Emergency Services Vehicle in NSW?

Impersonating a police officer in NSW carries heavy punishments of up to 2-years prison and/or $11,000 fine pursuant to section 546D Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Also, in NSW, offences relating to emergency services organisations are contained in the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW).

Specifically, section 63B(2A) State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (NSW) prohibits anyone from impersonating an emergency services organisation officer with the intention to deceive and purport to exercise a function of such an officer, or with the intention to deceive to commit an offence.

Anyone who commits this offence will face a maximum penalty of up to $11,000 fine.

Section 63B(1) prohibits a person from manufacturing or selling emergency services organisation insignia, whereas section 63(2) prohibits a person from either using or displaying emergency services organisation insignia, or from impersonating an emergency services organisation officer with the intention to deceive.

The maximum penalty for each of offences in NSW is $5,500 fine.

Emergency services organisation insignia here includes uniform, emblems, or logos.

It should be noted that a person is not guilty of an offence under this section if the person’s conduct is authorised by the relevant emergency services organisation, or the person establishes that the conduct is for the purposes of a public entertainment, or the person establishes that the person has a reasonable excuse.

“Emergency services organisation officer” includes an employee, member, volunteer or any other person who exercises functions on behalf of an emergency services organisation (other than the NSW Police Force).

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